The Second Department, reversing (modifying) Supreme Court, determined plaintiff bicyclist should have been awarded summary judgment in this vehicle-bicycle accident case, but defendant’s comparative-negligence affirmative defense should not have been dismissed:
On a motion for summary judgment on the issue of a defendant’s liability, a plaintiff is no longer required to show freedom from comparative negligence to establish his or her prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law … . Although a plaintiff is not required to establish his or her freedom from comparative negligence to be entitled to summary judgment on the issue of liability … , the issue of a plaintiff’s comparative negligence may be decided in the context of a summary judgment motion where the plaintiff moves for summary judgment dismissing a defendant’s affirmative defense alleging comparative negligence … . “In general, a motorist is required to keep a reasonably vigilant lookout for bicyclists, to sound the vehicle’s horn when a reasonably prudent person would do so in order to warn a bicyclist of danger, and to operate the vehicle with reasonable care to avoid colliding with anyone on the road. A bicyclist is required to use reasonable care for his or her own safety, to keep a reasonably vigilant lookout for vehicles, and to avoid placing himself or herself in a dangerous position” … . * * *
… [P]laintiffs … failed to establish, prima facie, that the injured plaintiff was not comparatively at fault in the happening of the accident. There can be more than one proximate cause of an accident, and generally, it is for the trier of fact to determine the issue of proximate cause … . Based upon the evidence presented by the plaintiffs in support of their motion, triable issues of fact exist as to whether the injured plaintiff was negligent in failing to keep a proper lookout, whether he should have slowed down earlier given the traffic conditions, and whether he contributed to the happening of the accident … . Bornsztejn v Zito, 2023 NY Slip Op 05706, Second Dept 11-15-23
Practice Point: There can be more than one proximate cause of an accident. Here the defendant driver failed to see was should have been seen, so the plaintiff bicyclist was entitled to summary judgment on liability. However there was a question of fact whether plaintiff was comparatively negligent, so the comparative negligence affirmative defense remained viable on the issue of damages.