The First Department, reversing Supreme Court in this traffic-accident case, determined Supreme Court should not have, sua sponte, searched the record to award plaintiff summary judgment. The motion before the court was brought by the owner of the car which rear-ended plaintiff, Piard, against the employer of the driver of Piard’s car, Y & H. Piard alleged she did not give Y & H permission to drive the car outside of Y & H’s garage and sought summary judgment on that ground. The court improperly searched the record and awarded plaintiff summary judgment against Y & H:
… [T]he motion court erred in searching the record and granting summary judgment to plaintiff on plaintiff’s claim against Y&H. A motion for summary judgment on one claim or defense does not provide a basis for searching the record and granting summary judgment on an unrelated claim or defense … . Here, the only issues raised with respect to defendant Piard’s motion and plaintiff’s cross-motion were defendant Piard’s liability and plaintiff’s comparative fault. The court therefore erred in granting summary judgment to plaintiff based on co-defendant’s Y&H’s liability. Christopher v Piard, 2023 NY Slip Op 05787, First Dept 11-16-23
Practice Point: There are limits on a court’s power to search the record and, sua sponte, award summary judgment. Here the motions before the court did not address whether the employer of the driver of the car which rear-ended plaintiff was liable to plaintiff. Rather the motions addressed whether the owner of the car had given permission to the employer of the driver to use her car. The motion court should not have searched the record and awarded summary judgment to plaintiff against the employer of the driver of the car.