The Rogak Report: 29 Feb 2008 ** Negligence - Foreseeability **
MAN'S FALL FROM TRUCK BED RULED NOT FORESEEABLE; PLAINTIFF'S VERDICT VACATED
Lafontant v. U-Haul Co. of Fla. 2008 NY Slip Op 01717 Decided on February 26, 2008 Appellate Division, Second Department Edited by Lawrence N. Rogak
The injured plaintiff claimed that he was hurt while assisting the defendant Maurice Marable in loading a truck owned by the defendant U-Haul Co. of Florida and leased by the defendant U-Haul Co. of Arizona. The injured plaintiff testified at trial that he was standing on the platform of the truck when Marable and another man dropped a heavy piece of furniture in the truck, causing the truck bed to move. According to plaintiff, the movement of the truck caused him to lose his balance and fall from the truck bed to the ground.
Prior to the trial, the parties stipulated that U-Haul Co. of Florida and U-Haul Co. of Arizona were subject to vicarious liability for Marable's conduct. After trial, the jury found Marable 45% at fault in the happening of the accident. The Supreme Court denied the defendants' motion to set aside the jury verdict. The Appellate Division reversed.
"Pursuant to CPLR 4404(a), the trial court may set aside a verdict and direct that judgment be entered in favor of a party entitled to judgment as a matter of law. A court may set aside a jury verdict as unsupported by legally sufficient evidence only if there is no valid line of reasoning and permissible inferences which could possibly lead rational individuals to the conclusion reached by the jury on the basis of the evidence at trial."
"Although the determination of whether a defendant acted negligently in light of the foreseeable risks should generally be resolved by the finder of fact, the law draws a line between remote possibilities and those that are reasonably foreseeable because no person can be expected to guard against harm from events which are so unlikely to occur that the risk would commonly be disregarded. (DiPonzio v Riordan, 89 NY2d 578, 583, quoting Prosser and Keeton, Torts § 31, at 170 [5th ed.])."
"Here, upon the evidence presented at trial, there was no valid line of reasoning and permissible inferences which could possibly lead rational persons to conclude that the injured plaintiff's accident was foreseeable under these circumstances. As a matter of law, the plaintiff's accident was not within the reasonably foreseeable risks of the defendants alleged negligence. Accordingly, the Supreme Court should have granted the defendants' motion pursuant to CPLR 4404(a) to set aside the verdict and for judgment as a matter of law."