Ruling In New York May Give Plaintiffs Leverage

Charlotte Personal Injury Attorney Matt Arnold answers the question: “How do worker comps payments work?”


We all know that in personal injury cases, settlement is a common end result. Though there are lots of reasons why this is the case, a big one is the degree of uncertainty on both sides. No one knows for sure how a jury may find, no matter how strong the case may appear in advance. The reality is that going to trial is inherently risky. Settling helps reduce that risk, ensuring you walk away with something, even if it is not what you may have hoped for.


Pile-of-old-tires-Charlotte-Lake-Norman-Monroe-Personal-Injury-Attorney-300x215A recent ruling in New York state may change the calculation, at least in some personal injury cases. The case at issue, Carlos Rodriguez v. City of New York, is an interesting one in that a fairly straightforward personal injury case ended up having potentially important consequences. The case concerns a New York City sanitation worker who was seriously injured while outfitting garbage trucks with tire chains and snow plows. The accident at issue occurred when a garbage truck was being guided by another sanitation worker and crashed into a nearby parked car. That car was then pushed into the worker, Rodriguez, who was pinned against a rack of tires. Rodriguez says he had to undergo spinal fusion surgery and is now permanently disabled.


Though the facts are sad, they are somewhat beside the point of the case. Rodriguez and his attorney made their case at trial court and put forward a partial motion for summary judgment, asking that the judge decide an issue before taking the case to trial. The issue that they asked for a decision on concerned the defendant employer’s liability.


The lower court rejected the motion for summary judgment, but the case made its way up to New York’s highest court where the judges, in a 4-3 decision, disagreed. The Court decided that the summary judgment motion was appropriate in this case. Previously, judges rejected such motions because of a New York rule that says that a movant for summary judgment must show that there is no defense to the cause of action. The City of New York argued that that Rodriguez’s motion should be denied because he failed to establish that he was not contributorily negligent. This would typically be seen as a defense and thus serve as a sufficient basis to get the motion for summary judgment tossed.


No longer, according to the New York Court of Appeals. The Court decided that the issue of a plaintiff’s comparative negligence may genuinely be an issue in contention, but that this is relevant only as it relates to damages, not liability. As a result, a question of possible contributory negligence is not a defense and thus not a bar to hearing a motion for summary judgment in a personal injury case. Though partial motions for summary judgment based on a defendant’s liability may now be granted, that does not mean that the entire case will be decided that way. Instead, issues of damages will need to be heard before a jury and proof about possible contributory negligence can be put forward at that stage.


Experts say the case could have a big impact in New York in that it will lead to a likely huge increase in the number of motions for summary judgment filed by plaintiffs in personal injury cases. If the plaintiffs win, many expect there will be dramatically less incentive for plaintiffs to settle cases, instead being far more comfortable rolling the dice on the jury. After all, with the issue of liability set aside, their odds of achieving a favorable result would have increased substantially. Even if settlement is possible, for those plaintiffs who have already won a motion for summary judgment, many believe the amount of the settlements will be much higher than was customary.


If you or someone close to you has been injured, contact an experienced personal injury attorney today who can help you receive the compensation to which you may be entitled. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC for a free consultation, call at 704-370-2828 or click here for additional resources.







The skilled personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are dedicated to maximizing the financial recovery and obtaining justice for every personal injury client injured by another party’s negligence. The issues our personal injury clients may be facing include, but are not limited to, slip and fall injuries, wrongful death, product liability, catastrophic injuries, dog bite claims, car and truck accident injuries, motorcycle injuries, traumatic brain injury (TBI), nursing home negligence, spinal cord injury, boating accidents, and defective medical device injury. Our personal injury attorneys understand the devastating impact such an injury can have on a person’s life, and that the effects so often go beyond physical pain and suffering. The personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are dedicated to helping clients determine the strength of their claims, and to aggressively pursuing the means necessary to achieve the best possible end result for each client’s particular situation.





Image Credit



See Our Related Video from our YouTube channel:



See Our Related Blog Posts:

Texas Court Sides With Worker In Personal Injury Case

Labor Advocates Celebrate New OSHA Rule for Workplace Injuries

Contact Information