Statements In Police Report Insufficient To Create Issue Of Fact (NY)

In automobile cases where there was a police response, sometimes we get a great police report that contains statements favorable to our defense, but we caution that these statements may not be admissible as Roman v. Cabrera demonstrates.

Roman was changing a tire on the shoulder of I-95 when Cabrera struck him with her car.  Cabrera claimed that she was avoiding Lawrence’s car that was disabled in the left lane.  During Lawrence’s deposition, he testified that his car became disabled after he was struck by an unknown vehicle causing him to hit the median divider.  The police report contained a notation from the responding state trooper that Cabrera had swerved to avoid Lawrence’s vehicle and in so doing lost control of her vehicle and struck Roman.  Lawrence moved for summary judgment after his deposition.  Roman opposed the motion relying heavily on the statements in the police report.  The trial court eventually ruled that issues of fact existed as to whether Lawrence was negligent.

On appeal, the First Department reversed, finding that the police report was inadmissible hearsay, since the state trooper had not witnessed the accident.  The court further noted that even if the report were admissible, it was still insufficient to raise an issue of fact since liability may not be imposed on a party who simply furnishes the occasion for an incident to occur, but was not one its causes.  The court held that the report did not raise an inference that Lawrence’s actions caused the emergency created when his vehicle hit the median.

Special thanks to Michael Nunley for his contribution to this post.  For more information, please contact Nicole Y. Brown at nbrown@wcmlaw.com.