Warning: This blog may be a little too “legalese” for many of my readers, but it is an important development in New York personal injury law, so I feel compelled to write about it for my many lawyer-readers and others with a more-than-casual interest in the law. The new development is a case from New York’s top Court — the Court of Appeals — called “Rodriguez v. City of New York”.
The particular facts of that case don’t matter for our purpose here. So I am not even going to talk about them. Here’s what you need to know: Whenever we New York personal injury lawyers sue a defendant for negligence, there comes a point, usually after depositions, when we consider making a “summary judgment motion on liability”. That means we are asking the Judge – without a jury – to rule that the evidence so clearly shows the defendant was negligent that the Judge – without even giving the case to the jury to consider – should rule that the defendant was negligent and is liable to our client, the plaintiff. At that point, if we get “summary judgment on liability” in our favor, we gain several advantages.
First, the only remaining issue now for a jury to decide is the amount of “damages”, in other words, how much is the injury worth? We get to go to the jury and tell them “the judge has already found the defendant liable for what he did to our client and now you only have to consider HOW MUCH he owes our client, not WHETHER he owes our client.” Huge advantage. It’s like starting a football game with a three-touchdown head start.