Rodriguez v. City of New York, 2018 NY Slip Op 02287 (2018)

New York Court of Appeals clarifies case law on comparative negligence and summary judgment.

The New York Court of Appeals decided “a question that has perplexed courts for some time.”; whether a plaintiff must show the absence of their own comparative negligence to obtain partial summary judgment on liability. The court held that the plaintiff does not need to make this showing. While the plaintiff was installing snow chains on trucks, another worker improperly guided a truck into the garage, which struck and injured the plaintiff. The lower court held that the defendant was negligent. But the court did not award summary judgment to the plaintiff on the issue of liability because the plaintiff did not show that he was free from comparative fault. The Court of Appeals discussed New York’s pure comparative negligence statute, which states that a plaintiff’s contributory negligence shall not bar recovery, but only reduce the amount of damages. The majority and dissent disagreed over prior case law, statutory interpretation of the comparative negligence scheme, and practical benefits or disadvantages to either outcome. It remains to be seen whether this decision will cause more plaintiffs to move for summary judgment, knowing that they can obtain it even if they were also at fault.


Case Law Alerts, 3rd Quarter, July 2018

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