Negligence and Fault After the Rodriguez Decision

July 27th, 2018 News

In a recent article published in the New York Law Journal, attorneys Robert L. Fellows and Daniel Justus Solinsky of Fellows Hymowitz Rice—a personal injury law firm in New City, New York—discuss practical implications of the Court of Appeals decision in Rodriguez v. City of New York.

The Court of Appeals decision in Rodriguez v. City of New York—already known to most plaintiff and defendant attorneys who deal with cases of negligence—has reshaped how many approach negligence litigation. The Court examined the defense of comparative negligence, stating:

“Comparative negligence is not a defense to the cause of action of negligence, because it is not a defense to any element (duty, breach, causation) of plaintiff’s prima facie cause of action for negligence, and as CPLR 1411 plainly states, is not a bar to plaintiff’s recovery, but rather a diminishment of the amount of damages.”

The court ultimately held “to be entitled to a partial summary judgment a plaintiff does not bear the double burden of establishing a prima facie case of defendant’s liability and the absence of his or her own comparative fault.”

In the Journal piece, attorneys Fellows and Solinsky examine what this ruling means for summary judgment motions, decisions on liability, and the effects of comparative fault in negligence cases. They also discuss the ability of plaintiffs to move to renew previously denied motions for summary judgment—allowing that Rodriguez definitively holds a plaintiff need not establish the absence of one’s own comparative fault to be granted summary judgment.

Indicating that they expect to see a dramatic upturn in plaintiff-directed verdict applications after this decision, Fellows and Solinsky add that: “While establishing plaintiff’s freedom from negligence is no longer necessary to obtain summary judgment, if a plaintiff has the ability to make such a showing, a plaintiff should now take the additional step of moving for summary judgment and to dismiss the affirmative defense of comparative negligence.”

About Fellows Hymowitz Rice

The attorneys at Fellows Hymowitz Rice have a record of success in handling a wide range of cases involving serious injury and wrongful death claims. Every case is different. We bring the same individual commitment and dedication to each case, big or small. If you have been in an accident or injured as a result of someone else’s fault, we may be able to help.

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