Operator Killed Outside Stalled Vehicle By Hit & Run Driver

Was Absentee Car Owner’s Negligence Proximate Cause of Death

 Erika Michelle Strebel was operating a vehicle owned by Joseph Biamonte with his consent. The vehicle ran out of gas on Montauk Highway, a two-lane highway with a speed limit of 50 miles per hour. Strebel stopped the vehicle on the full asphalt shoulder, which was painted white at that location. Strebel was standing outside of the vehicle with a gas can when she was fatally struck by a pickup truck operated by a non-party, hit-and-run driver.

Stephen Biamonte, as administrator of Strebel’s estate sued Joseph. Stephen alleged that Joseph knew that his vehicle had a malfunctioning gas gauge but nonetheless “allowed [Strebel]. . . to borrow and use” the vehicle. And further alleged that Joseph negligently failed to maintain the vehicle in proper working order and loaned the vehicle to Strebel while it was in a state of disrepair– and that negligence caused Strebel’s injuries.

After the completion of discovery, Joseph moved for summary judgment dismissing the complaint, contending that it was not foreseeable that running out of gas would result in Strebel being struck by a hit-and-run driver,. And that Josephs’s alleged conduct was not a proximate cause of the accident. Supreme Court denied the motion. Joseph appealed.

In support of his motion, Joseph established that his alleged negligence was not a proximate cause of the accident. Even assuming, arguendo, that permitting Strebel to borrow a vehicle with a malfunctioning gas gauge “furnished the condition or occasion” for the accident, under the circumstances here, a hit-and-run driver striking Strebel constituted an intervening act which was not foreseeable. In opposition, Stephen failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether Joseph’s allegedly negligent conduct contributed to the happening of the accident.

Supreme Court should have granted Joseph’s motion for summary judgment dismissing Stephen’s complaint.

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