In New York, a person injured in a motor vehicle accident cannot maintain a lawsuit for personal injuries unless the injuries are “serious” as defined by the New York State Insurance Law. Typically, the Court is lenient as to what constitutes a serious injury, assuming the plaintiff’s medical proof is sufficient to show prima facie evidence of a serious injury.
In Munoz v. Robinson, decided by the Appellate Division, First Department on March 5, 2019, the underlying Court had granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants on the plaintiff’s failure to meet the personal injury threshold. Plaintiff suffered a torn meniscus and had surgical repair following the accident. However, plaintiff had pre-existing degenerative issues with the knee confirmed by her own physicians.
Both the lower Court and the Appellate Division found that the defendants met their burden in showing that the injury which required surgical repair pre-existed the accident. However, the Appellate Division found that plaintiff raised a question of fact to overcome the defendant’s prima facie showing of entitlement to summary judgment by showing that the accident aggravated the prior injury to such a degree that surgery was necessary, wherein it would likely not have been necessary before.
This decision further shows how the high standard defendants face in obtaining summary judgment on the personal injury threshold issue in motor vehicle accident cases. Even here, if we might paraphrase Michael Corleone, the defendants thought they were out, but the First Department pulled them back in! Thanks to Dana Purcaro for her contribution to this post. Please email Brian Gibbons with any questions.