Gerrity v. Muthana, 2006 NY Slip Op 03180, is an interesting Fourth Department case in which the Court considered the issue of whether the summary judgment motion of one of the defendants, the owner of an illegally parked bus, was properly granted by the trial court.
In this case, the plaintiff was injured when a car driven by one of the defendants ran a red light and struck the bus that the plaintiff was driving, thus causing the bus to collide with yet another bus that had been illegally parked in a "No Standing" area. It was undisputed the plaintiff's injuries were cause by the collision with the second bus, rather than the initial collision with the car that ran the red light.
The Fourth Department upheld the trial court's ruling and held that the lower court had properly granted summary judgment in favor of the owner of the illegally parked bus:
Defendant met its burden on the motion by establishing as a matter of law that the sole proximate cause of the accident was Muthana's failure to stop at the red light, and plaintiffs failed to raise an issue of fact (see generally Zuckerman v City of New York, 49 NY2d 557, 562). The location of defendant's bus " merely furnished the condition or occasion for the occurrence of the event' and was not one of its causes" (Mendrykowski v New York Tel. Co., 2 AD3d 1410, 1410).
I'm not entirely convinced by the majority's logic and find the dissent's argument to be more compelling. The dissent concluded that the incident was a "chain reaction" accident that consisted of two separate collisions and stated that:
"It has been held in a variety of factual circumstances that owners of improperly parked cars may be held liable to plaintiffs injured by negligent drivers of other vehicles, depending on the determinations by the trier of fact of the issues of foreseeability and proximate cause unique to the particular case" (O'Connor v Pecoraro, 141 AD2d 443, 445, citing, inter alia, Ferrer, 55 NY2d 285). Where, as here, the connection between the parking violations and the happening of the accident is logical and immediate enough to present an issue of fact, the issue is one for the trier of fact and is not properly resolved on a motion for summary judgment (see id.; cf. Dormena v Wallace, 282 AD2d 425, 427).
Given that there is a viable argument that the plaintiff's injuries would not have occurred but for the illegally parked bus, I think that there is an issue of fact. A reasonable fact-finder could determine that the plaintiff's injuries were foreseeable and proximately caused by the illegally parked bus.
Had the bus been parked legally, it would have been a different story. But, that's not the case here. It's hard for me to stomach the fact that the plaintiff appears to now have no recourse for his injuries.