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Burden of Proof in Comparative Negligence SJ Motions

Rodriguez v. City of New York, 2018 N.Y. Slip. Op. 02287 (2018)

An important New York Court of Appeals decision has a bearing upon plaintiffs seeking partial summary judgment in a comparative negligence case. Rodriguez upends the playing field and puts the burden back (rightfully) where it belongs.  The holding of the case is simply stated – – where a plaintiff seeks to obtain partial summary judgment in a comparative negligence case, it is not required to bear the burden of establishing the absence of its own comparative negligence.  As one might imagine, presenting undisputed evidence to negate the allegation of comparative negligence is much harder to offer, but now, it is not needed.

There are issues beyond the scope of this summary regarding the consequences of the Court’s decision.  It should suffice to say that the decision impacts cases in which no motion has been made, decisions where a motion has been made but not decided, cases in which a motion was made and decided against the plaintiff based upon the application of the prior rule and there are a host of other appellate issues which will certainly give rise to many short-term litigation cases.  However, once the smoke clears, the Rodriguez decision will help to expedite the partial or complete resolution by motion of some negligence actions.