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Carlos Rodriguez, Appellant, v City of New York, Respondent.

Court of Appeals of New York

 February 14, 2018, Argued ; April 3, 2018, Decided

No. 32

Opinion

 [***899]  [**367]  [*315] Feinman, J.

This appeal requires us to answer a question that has perplexed courts for some time: Whether a plaintiff is entitled to partial summary judgment on the issue of a defendant's liability, when, as here, defendant has arguably raised an issue of fact regarding plaintiff's comparative negligence. Stated differently, to obtain partial summary judgment in a comparative negligence case, must plaintiffs establish the absence of their own comparative negligence. We hold that a plaintiff does not bear that burden.

Plaintiff Carlos Rodriguez was employed by the New York City Department of Sanitation (DOS) as a garage utility worker. He was injured while "outfitting" sanitation trucks with tire chains and plows to enable them to clear the streets of snow and ice. The following facts are uncontradicted: On a snowy winter day, plaintiff and his two coworkers were tasked with outfitting sanitation trucks [****2]  with tire chains and plows at the Manhattan 5 facility. Typically, the driver backs the truck into one of the garage bays, and the driver and other members of the team   "dress" the truck. One person acts as a guide, assisting the driver by providing directions through appropriate hand signals while standing on the passenger's side of the truck. Once the truck is safely parked in the garage, the driver, the guide, and the third member of the team (here, plaintiff) place chains on the truck's tires.

At the time of his accident, plaintiff was standing between the front of a parked Toyota Prius and a rack of tires outside of the garage bay while the driver began backing the sanitation truck into the garage. The guide, at some point, stood on the driver's side of the sanitation truck while directing the driver in violation of established DOS safety practices. The sanitation truck began skidding and eventually crashed into the front of the parked Toyota Prius, propelling the car into plaintiff and pinning him up against the rack of tires. Plaintiff was taken to the hospital and ultimately had to undergo spinal fusion surgery, a course of lumbar epidural steroid injections, and extensive physical [****3]  [**368]  [***900]  therapy. He is permanently disabled from working.

 [*316] Plaintiff commenced this negligence action against the City of New York. After discovery, he moved for partial summary judgment on the issue of defendant's liability pursuant to CPLR 3212. Defendant opposed the motion and cross-moved for summary judgment in its favor. Supreme Court denied both motions. In denying plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment, Supreme Court held that there were triable issues of fact regarding foreseeability, causation, and plaintiff's comparative negligence.1

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31 N.Y.3d 312 *; 101 N.E.3d 366 **; 76 N.Y.S.3d 898 ***; 2018 N.Y. LEXIS 793 ****; 2018 NY Slip Op 02287; 2018 WL 1595658

 [1]  Carlos Rodriguez, Appellant, v City of New York, Respondent.

Subsequent History: On remand at, Judgment entered by Rodriguez v. City of New York, 161 A.D.3d 575, 77 N.Y.S.3d 46, 2018 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 3599, 2018 NY Slip Op 3634 (May 22, 2018)

Prior History: Appeal, by permission of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in the First Judicial Department, from an order of that Court, entered September 1, 2016. The Appellate Division order, insofar as appealed from, affirmed, to the extent appealed from by plaintiff, so much of an order of the Supreme Court, New York County (Kathryn E. Freed, J.; op 2014 NY Slip Op 33650[U] [2014]), as had denied plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment on the issue of liability. The following question was certified by the Appellate Division: "Was the order of Supreme Court, as affirmed by this Court, properly made?"

Carlos Rodriguez v. City of New York., 2016 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 8958 (N.Y. App. Div. 1st Dep't, Dec. 15, 2016)Rodriguez v. City of New York, 142 A.D.3d 778, 37 N.Y.S.3d 93, 2016 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 5821 (Sept. 1, 2016)

Disposition: Order, insofar as appealed from, reversed, with costs, case remitted to the Appellate Division, First Department, for consideration of issues raised but not determined on the appeal to that court and certified question answered in the negative.

CORE TERMS

comparative fault, partial summary judgment, summary judgment, comparative negligence, damages, matter of law, truck, issue of fact, culpable conduct, sanitation, summary judgment motion, injuries, courts, question of fact, driver, cases, issue of liability, inaction, garage, facie, contributory negligence, cause of action, order to obtain, plain language, proximate, questions, fault, tire, triable issue of fact, bar recovery

Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Torts, Defenses, Comparative Fault, Procedural Matters, Civil Procedure, Judgments, Summary Judgment, Entitlement as Matter of Law, Evidence, Inferences & Presumptions, Inferences, Courts, Judicial Precedent, Burdens of Proof, Movant Persuasion & Proof, Appeals, Appellate Jurisdiction, State Court Review, Apportionment of Fault