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Montfort Healy wins Choice of Law Argument on Appeal

On November 28, 2018, the Appellate Division, Second Department unanimously issued an order granting Summary Judgment in favor of Montfort, Healy, McGuire & Salley.  The case involved a four-car-chain collision on Interstate 80 in Pennsylvania in which the plaintiff was a passenger in the second vehicle.  MHMS represented the driver of the second vehicle (“Ibrahim”) and moved for summary judgment arguing that Ibrahim did not cause or contribute to plaintiff’s injuries in any manner. While plaintiff did not oppose the motion, the other defendants opposed the motion arguing that an issue of fact existed as to whether Ibrahim had abruptly stopped.

The Supreme Court of Kings County denied MHMS’ motion after relying on a ground which was not raised by the defendants. In fact, the ground relied on by the court, was that Ibrahim was not entitled to summary judgment under Pennsylvania, and not, New York law.

The Second Department overturned the decision of the Supreme Court of Kings County.  The Court first stated that the lower court “should not have based its determination of the motion on a ground that was neither raised nor briefed by the parties.” Furthermore, in relying on prior case law, the Court recognized that the parties may consent, formally or by their conduct, to the law to be applied.  Therefore, by not raising a choice of law argument to Ibrahim’s motion for summary judgment, the codefendants were found to have consented to New York law being applied.

In reviewing the case under New York law, the Court found that MHMS met their prima facieentitlement to summary judgment.  In his deposition, Ibrahim stated he brought his vehicle to a complete stop prior to being struck in the rear by the third vehicle. Although the codefendants produced evidence that Ibrahim may have been stopping instead of being stopped, that was not sufficient to raise a triable issue of fact.  Therefore, the Second Department granted MHMS’ motion for summary judgment, dismissing the complaint and cross claims asserted against Ibrahim.

To read the full decision click here.

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