By Thomas M. Bona.
Court: Appellate Division – Second Department
Judges: Colleen Duffy, Sheris Roman, Joseph Maltese, and William Ford
Case Type: Auto-Pedestrian Knockdown
Caption: Keys v. PV Holding Corp. et al. 165 N.Y.S. 3d 881
Index No.: 526646/2019 Appellate Docket No.: 2020-09535
Decision Date: May 11, 2022
Decision: Reversed Summary Judgment Reinstating Graves Amendment Defense
Judges can make a wrong decision on a case for many reasons. They may not understand the law, so they get it wrong. Or sometimes, judges think that deciding in the plaintiff’s favor will force a case to settle because the defendant won’t want to spend the time or the money to appeal a decision to correct a mistake. When that happens, the defendant has two choices, they can soldier on working with the wrong decision as best they can, or they can appeal the decision and take it to an appellate court to correct the trial court’s mistake. Not all insurance companies and law firms want to take an appeal because they do not have a skilled appellate team, or it will delay the ultimate resolution of the case and will increase defense costs.
At PMT, fighting for our client’s best interests is part of our DNA when the judge makes a wrong decision. We always fight hard for our clients and never give up, and our appellate team proves it. Insurance companies turn to our appellate team to tackle the tough jobs and fix other people’s mistakes. A recent example shows how PMT gets called to correct bad judicial decisions.
In Keys v. PV Holdings, the plaintiff, a pedestrian, sued the driver and owner of a Zipcar auto, which PV and Zipcar owned. Based upon a long-standing federal law that limits a lessor’s liability, known as the Graves Amendment, the driver’s limited policy was the only coverage afforded. Plaintiff moved for summary judgment before any discovery and was granted judgment on liability against all defendants. At that point, PMT was retained to represent PV holdings/Zipcar and take an appeal.
We appealed the decision arguing that the Supreme Court’s blanket granting of judgment effectively dismissed all liability defenses, including the Graves Amendment defense. That defense was based on the Federal statute that pre-empts New York law and provides that a vehicle owner and leasing company cannot be held liable for personal injuries arising from the permissive use of a rental vehicle. Instead, liability can only attach upon a showing of negligence.
We argued that the Court exceeded its authority in determining an issue not raised in the moving papers, which was not an issue not before the Court. The Appellate Division agreed and reversed reinstating the Graves Amendment defense, holding that the plaintiff failed to meet his burden to show an exception to the Graves amendment.
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