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Plaintiff alleged injuries to lumbar spine, cervical spine, left shoulder in car accident. Diarra v. City Bronx Leasing Two Inc., 2021 N.Y. Slip Op. 34011 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2021)


In the case of Diarra v. City Bronx Leasing Two Inc., the plaintiff, Ibrahima Diarra, alleged injuries from a motor vehicle accident. The defendants moved for summary judgment to dismiss Diarra’s complaint, arguing that she failed to meet the “serious injury” threshold as defined by New York Insurance Law §5102(d). The plaintiff cross-moved for partial summary judgment on the issue of liability against the defendants.

Background Facts
Ibrahima Diarra was involved in a motor vehicle accident on August 18, 2018, while traveling southbound on Bronx River Avenue and East 174th Street in Bronx, New York. Diarra’s vehicle was struck from the rear by a vehicle operated by Nelson M. Sanchez. At the time of the accident, Diarra had an automobile insurance policy with Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, which included coverage for bodily injury and Supplementary Uninsured Motorist (SUM) benefits.

Following the accident, Diarra claimed to have suffered injuries to her lumbar and cervical spine, and left shoulder. She sought compensation for these injuries, alleging that they were a result of the accident. The defendants, City Bronx Leasing Two Inc. and Nelson M. Sanchez, argued that Diarra did not suffer a serious injury and sought to dismiss the complaint on those grounds. They submitted medical evidence suggesting that Diarra’s injuries were not significant or permanent and were not causally related to the accident.

The issue before the court was twofold: whether Diarra’s injuries met the “serious injury” threshold required to maintain a lawsuit under New York Insurance Law §5102(d), and whether the defendants were liable for the accident.

The court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment in part and denied it in part. The court dismissed Diarra’s claims for a “permanent loss of use” and a “90/180 day” injury claim but allowed her claims for “permanent consequential” or “significant” limitations of her lumbar and cervical spine to proceed. Additionally, the court granted Diarra’s motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability, holding the defendants liable for the accident.

The court’s decision rested on the following points:

Serious Injury Threshold. The defendants argued that Diarra did not suffer a “serious injury” as defined by New York Insurance Law §5102(d). They submitted medical reports from Dr. Steven Renzoni, an orthopedic surgeon, who found normal or near-normal ranges of motion in Diarra’s injured body parts. Radiologist Dr. Scott Springer also concluded that Diarra’s injuries were degenerative and not related to the accident. These submissions shifted the burden to Diarra to raise a material issue of fact.

Diarra countered with affirmed treatment records from her treating physician, Dr. Jeff Mollins, showing significant range-of-motion limitations in her left shoulder, cervical, and lumbar spine both shortly after the accident and more recently. Dr. Mollins opined that Diarra sustained permanent partial disability as a result of the accident. The court found these submissions sufficient to raise factual issues about whether Diarra sustained a “permanent consequential” or “significant” limitation of use of her spine due to the accident.

90/180 Day Claim. Diarra’s claim for a “90/180 day” injury was dismissed because she admitted at deposition that she missed only seven weeks of work immediately following the accident, which did not meet the statutory requirement of missing at least 90 days of work within the first 180 days following the injury.

Liability. On the issue of liability, the court found that Diarra established a prima facie case of negligence by demonstrating that her vehicle was rear-ended by Sanchez’s vehicle. Under New York law, a rear-end collision with a stopped or stopping vehicle creates a presumption of negligence on the part of the rear driver, shifting the burden to the defendant to provide a non-negligent explanation for the collision. Sanchez failed to offer a sufficient non-negligent explanation, such as claiming Diarra stopped abruptly. Therefore, the court granted Diarra’s motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability.

If you or someone you know is dealing with complications from a spinal injury, it is important to seek experienced legal guidance. A seasoned New York spinal injury lawyer can help navigate the complexities of personal injury claims and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.

In cases like Diarra v. City Bronx Leasing Two Inc., where multiple medical issues and treatment decisions are involved, having a knowledgeable advocate on your side is crucial. Contact Stephen Bilkis & Associates to discuss your case and take the first step toward achieving justice and securing the support you need. Protecting your rights and securing your future starts with having a knowledgeable advocate on your side.

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