On August 6, 2005 an employee of an ice company was driving a rental truck on Rout 25A at the intersection of Warner Road in Huntington, Long Island, New York at about ten in the morning when he ran into the rear end of another vehicle that was stopped at the traffic light.
In this case, the owner of the rental truck company is asking for a summary judgment relieving it from liability due to the coverage under the Graves Amendment that provides an owner of a vehicle that “is engaged in the trade or business of renting or leasing motor vehicles shall not be liable under any State law for damages sustained in a motor vehicle accident provided there is no negligence or criminal wrongdoing on the part of the owner.” (see, 49 USC § 30106[a])
The driver of the rental truck opposes this motion since he claims that when he attempted to stop the truck, he discovered that the truck’s brakes were faulty. He claims that his negligence to maintain the truck in a safe fashion removes any protections that the Graves Amendment would otherwise have provided to the truck rental company.
As far as the liability that exists for the driver of the truck. A prima facie case of liability is automatic when an operator of a moving vehicle strikes the rear of a stopped or stopping vehicle. In light of the facts at hand it is clear that the injured party has established its case against the driver of the truck. However, it is now triable issues of fact that the driver of the truck alleges the brakes were insufficient to stop the truck and that he is not responsible for the accident because of the brake failure. The driver of the truck is compelled to bring evidence to prove that the brakes were not safe and that the rental truck owner had knowledge or should have had knowledge that the brakes were not sufficient to stop the truck safely. Additionally, the injured driver stated that he has been involved in several accidents which have caused previous injury to his back. The insurance company for the driver of the truck has filed a motion to have the driver examined and to have information presented to determine which of his injuries are old and which ones are new.
The Justices order that there is enough question of fact for no summary judgment to be made and the case will go to trial.
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