Last month, an appellate court in South Dakota issued a written opinion in a car accident case that will be of interest to Maryland car accident victims considering filing a personal injury case seeking compensation for their injuries. The case illustrates the procedural mechanism of summary judgment and when it is appropriate in personal injury cases. In this case, since the evidence presented gave rise to a material fact that needed to be resolved by the jury, the appellate court determined that the lower court was proper to deny the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment.
Summary judgment is a motion that can be filed by either a plaintiff or a defendant, seeking early judgment in that party’s favor based on the other parties’ inability to legally succeed. Commonly, summary judgment motions are filed by defendants in Maryland car accident cases, arguing that there is some defect in the plaintiff’s case, such that, even if all of the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the plaintiff’s case will still fail.
In order to survive a summary judgment challenge, a party must establish that there is some factual question in the case that needs resolution. If that is the case, the court will deny the motion for summary judgment and submit the case to a jury. However, if the parties essentially agree on the facts and are arguing only over the application of the law, the judge can make the determination.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was driving on a Nebraska highway on a snowy, blustery day. There were few cars on the road, but at some point near the South Dakota border, the plaintiff approached a snowplow. The snowplow was kicking up a cloud of snow, making it difficult for the plaintiff to see. The plaintiff slowed down for a few miles and eventually began to pass the snowplow at approximately 35-40 miles per hour.
A few moments later, the defendant approached the snowplow. The defendant was unable to see the plaintiff’s vehicle due to the cloud of snow and decided to pass the snowplow. The defendant was traveling at approximately 60 miles per hour as he passed the plow. However, by the time the defendant saw the plaintiff’s white truck, it was too late to stop, and the defendant crashed into the rear of the plaintiff’s truck.
The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, seeking compensation for his injuries. In a pre-trial motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff argued that the court should determine that the defendant was negligent as a matter of law and enter judgment in the plaintiff’s favor. The court declined the opportunity to do so, and the case proceeded to a jury trial, where the defendant was found to have not acted negligently.
The plaintiff appealed the lower court’s decision to deny his motion for summary judgement. On appeal, the lower court’s decision was upheld. The appellate court considered that the defendant waited several minutes to pass the snowplow and did so when he thought it was clear to do so. The court explained that reasonable minds could differ regarding the defendant’s liability, and thus summary judgment was not appropriate.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been a victim of a Maryland car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated Maryland car accident attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have experience litigating both plaintiff and defense motions for summary judgment. We have been handling Maryland accident cases for decades, and we know what it takes to be successful on behalf of our clients’ interests. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with an attorney to discuss your case, call 410-654-3600 today.
More Blog Posts:
Recent Case Finds Hotel Was Not Liable for Poolside Accident Caused by Drunk Driver, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published August 2, 2017.
Court Allows Evidence of “Other Similar Incidents” in Recent Product Liability Car Accident Case, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published July 11, 2017.