The case of Tselebis v. Ryder Truck Rental Inc., 2010 Slip Op. 01442 (1st Dept. Feb. 18, 2010) involves an accident between a truck and a motorcycle. The plaintiff, driver of the motorcycle, testified that he had no recollection of the accident. The driver of the truck testified that although he entered into the intersection against a red light it was due to his truck’s brake failure. Nevertheless, the court determined, summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff was warranted. The court stated that defendant’s admission that he entered the intersection while the traffic light was red constituted a prima facie showing of liability on his part. The proffer of brake failure by defendant was insufficient to raise a triable factual issue with respect to liability.
The court discussed that a defendant claiming brake failure must make a two-pronged showing that the accident was caused by an unanticipated problem with the vehicle’s brakes, and that he exercised reasonable care to keep the brake in good working order. Here, defendant failed to meet the first prong in light of defendant’s testimony of the problems he experienced with the truck’s brakes prior to the accident.
The court stated that plaintiff is entitled to summary judgment on the issue of liability despite the fact that his own negligence might remain an open question. The court reminds that a plaintiff’s own culpable conduct no longer stands as a bar to recovery in an action for personal injury and that freedom from comparative negligence is not a required component of a plaintiff’s prima facie showing on a motion for summary judgment.