Motor Vehicle Accident: Furch v. Klinger (N.Y. Sup. Ct., Monroe Co.)
December 31, 2017
In Furch, a 53-year-old male plaintiff sought damages for injuries, including multi-level lumbar fusion surgery, allegedly sustained as a result of a three-vehicle chain-reaction collision in the Town of Perinton. There were competing theories as to how the accident occurred. At trial, plaintiff testified that he was rear-ended twice: first, a hard hit by the car immediately in line behind him driven by the defendant, followed by a second, less intense impact from defendant’s vehicle when she was hit from behind by a third party. Plaintiff also offered the supporting testimony of an accident reconstruction expert. Defendant then testified that she was indeed following behind plaintiff, and that she had to stop abruptly when the vehicle in front of plaintiff stopped to make a right hand turn, but that she did not hit plaintiff, having come to a rest approximately five feet behind him, and only then experienced a later impact from behind, which pushed defendant into the rear of plaintiff’s vehicle. Defendant also offered the jury the testimony of an expert witness supporting her version of the accident. Finally, the third party who collided with the defendant testified candidly that she was the cause of the accident.
The jury returned a verdict finding the defendant negligent, but found that her negligence was not a substantial factor in causing the accident. The Supreme Court, Monroe County, denied plaintiff’s motion to set aside the verdict on the grounds that, pursuant to Berner v. Little, 137 A.D.3d 1675 (4th Dept. 2016), where a jury is offered two inconsistent explanations for the occurrence of an accident, the decision to select which explanation best fits their view of the evidence (including the credibility of witnesses) properly belongs to the jury. Given that the jury in this case was presented with conflicting evidence as to how this accident happened, the Court saw no reason to disturb the jury’s verdict.