The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined the petition to commence an action against the Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corporation (MVAIC) should not have been denied without a hearing. Petitioner was injured when a hit and run driver struck the cab she was riding in. The issue was whether petitioner took adequate steps to learn the identity of the owner and operator of the cab:
MVAIC was created to compensate innocent victims of hit-and-run motor vehicle accidents … . Insurance Law § 5218 sets forth the procedure for applying to a court for leave to commence an action against MVAIC in a hit-and-run case. “This statute provides, inter alia, that a person may apply to a court for an order permitting an action against MVAIC when, as relevant here, there is a cause of action to recover damages for personal injury arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or use of a motor vehicle, and when the identity of the motor vehicle and of the operator and owner thereof cannot be ascertained” … . “If the court, after a hearing, is satisfied that, inter alia, all reasonable efforts have been made to ascertain the identity of the motor vehicle and of the owner and operator and either the identity of the motor vehicle and the owner and operator cannot be established, then it may issue an order permitting an action against MVAIC” … .
Supreme Court should not have denied the petition and dismissed the proceeding without first having conducted a hearing. * * * Given the efforts made by the petitioner, there are issues of fact as to whether, under the circumstances, her efforts to ascertain the owner and operator of the livery cab were reasonable. Matter of Benalcazar v Motor Veh. Acc. Indem. Corp., 2023 NY Slip Op 04376, Second Dept 8-23-23
Practice Point: Before the Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corporation could be sued in this traffic accident case, the injured party (petitioner) was required take adequate steps to learn the identity of the owner and operator of the cab in which she was a passenger when the cab was struck by a hit and run driver. The efforts made by petitioner here were sufficient to warrant a hearing on the issue.