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Two competing legal doctrines recently went head to head, or nose to nose, in the New York trial and appellate courts. The first legal principle is one established in the 1948 New York decision of Noseworthy v. City of New York. In that case, the court held that the plaintiff in a personal injury action is entitled to a lower standard of proof when the accident has affected the plaintiff’s memory, and he or she is unable to testify as to the plaintiff’s version of the facts. The second legal principle is the commonly-known presumption that in a rear-end collision, the driver in back who hits the car ahead is presumed to be negligent.
In the case of Bah v. Benton, the Appellate Division, First Department, affirmed the ruling of the Bronx Supreme Court, and held that the Noseworthy doctrine applies in a rear-end collision case. In this case, Benton was driving his employer’s truck when he stalled on the Bruckner Expressway in The Bronx. Benton was in the left lane when stalled and steered the truck toward the right shoulder, although the truck was not all the way on the shoulder and extended onto the right lane. Bah was driving in the right lane and struck the truck, inflicting head injuries on Bah that put him into a coma and left him with post-traumatic amnesia.
The courts held that in order to invoke the Noseworthy doctrine, the plaintiff must still present sufficient evidence (known as a prima facie case) of the defendant’s negligence. Everyone agreed that Bah had done so here. But if the rear-end collision doctrine were also applied, Bah’s case would be thrown out anyway. The courts held that this would not make any sense and denied the defendants’ motions for summary judgment. Now Bah will get to have his day in court, but he will still have to find a way to prove his case, even under the lower Noseworthy standard.
If you or a loved one were injured in an accident or due to the negligent or reckless conduct of another, contact Leandros A. Vrionedes, P.C. in New York City for a free consultation.