A woman took the bus. As she was about to go down from the bus, while walking down the aisle toward the exit, she slipped on something slippery on the floor. She had a slip and fallwhich landed her on her bottom. She sustained spinal injury, specifically in her lumbar spine and cervical spine.
The Staten Island woman sued the transit authority which operated the bus along with the city government which owned the bus. After the depositions were taken and discovery was closed, the transit authority filed a motion for summary procedure asking that the woman’s complaint be dismissed for failure to show that she sustained a serious injury.
The woman opposed the motion for summary judgment arguing that this is not the usual motor vehicle accident and that she was not suing merely under a “no fault” law. She claims to have raised issues of negligence. She claims that the transit authority and the city government did not exercise reasonable care in keeping the buses safe for passengers and clean enough so that passengers would avoid a slip and fall while riding on the bus.
The only question is whether or not the motion for summary judgment should be granted.
The Court held that a summary judgment is a drastic remedy that cannot be lightly used.
Once a motion for summary judgment has filed, there is a requirement that the person seeking the summary judgment of dismissal has discharged his burden of proving the grounds for his motion. When this happens then the opposing party must be given an equal opportunity to provide evidence showing that there are material issues of fact that needs to be tried before a jury.
The Court held that the issue of whether or not the transit authority exercised reasonable care is a material question of fact that has a direct bearing on whether or not the transit authority is liable in damages. There is also the issue of whether or not the plaintiff’s slip and fall accident and the resulting spinal injury could have been caused by contributory negligence on her part. Because these two material issues of fact have yet to be determined, the motion for summary judgment cannot be granted.
However, the Court decided to rule on the branch of the motion for summary judgment that alleged that the woman did not suffer a serious injury that allows the payment of damages under the Insurance Law. The Court noted that the transit authority submitted a medical report prepared by an orthopedic surgeon who examined that the woman. In this medical report, the orthopedist reported that the woman suffered a sprain in her cervical spine, in her lumbar spine and in her left knee. However, the Westchester orthopedist noted a pre-existing degenerative disc disease in her spinal cord and pre-existing arthritis in her left knee joint.
The transit authority also submitted the medical report of a neurologist who examined the woman just before trial. He found that there was no permanent neurological impairment, disability or abnormality. He concluded that he only found sprain and contusions in her cervical spine and lumbar spine.
A psychiatrist also examined the woman before trial and he reported that the woman was capable of performing the usual activities of her daily life without restrictions. The psychiatrist noted that the woman suffered from depression and anxiety after the accident but these issues have already been resolved.
A radiologist took and MRI of the woman’s left knee and left shoulder and found that there was mild impingement in the joint that is consistent with the usual wear and tear associated with age and with chronic degenerative spinal disease.
The Court concluded that the woman failed to raise an issue of material fact as to the seriousness of her spinal injury. The case is dismissed except as to the claim for negligence and as to the claim of injury which resulted in temporary disability for 90 days after the accident.