Erol B. Gurcan, Associate

Erol Gurcan Prevails in Bench Trial in Richmond County

On March 15 and 16, 2021, a virtual bench trial on liability only was held before Richmond County Supreme Court Judge Ralph Porzio in Morris v. Dorota, index number 150202/2017. The attorneys had previously agreed to cap the plaintiff’s injuries at $50,000.00, and pay the damages based on their client’s degree of negligence.

The matter involved a three car chain motor vehicle accident that occurred on December 5, 2016 at the intersection of Amboy Road and Justin Avenue in Staten Island. Plaintiff Morris was a passenger in the middle vehicle, operated by her daughter, our client Bonnie Rogers. The third (rear-most) vehicle was operated by Choma Dorota, and the operator/owner of the first vehicle, Alla Spivak was not a party to the lawsuit. Ms. Rogers testified at both her deposition and at trial, that prior to the accident, she brought her vehicle to complete stop for the red light at the intersection, one car length behind the stopped Spivak vehicle. Two seconds after she came to a stop, she was rear ended by the Dorota vehicle and pushed forward into the rear of the Spivak vehicle. Ms. Dorota testified that she did not see the red traffic light at the intersection in time due to sun glare, and rear ended the Rogers’ vehicle. She also did not know if the Rogers vehicle rear ended the vehicle in front of it before she rear ended the Rogers’ vehicle.

Codefendant Dorota’s attorney attempted to establish negligence on the part of Ms. Rogers by reading in portions of Ms. Spivak’s deposition testimony, where she stated that she felt (but did not see) two impacts to the rear of her vehicle, implying that the Rogers’ vehicle struck her vehicle in the rear first, before it was struck in the rear by the Dorota vehicle and pushed into the Spivak vehicle a second time. The attorney also introduced several photographs of the Rogers’ vehicle, which showed far more physical damage to the front end of it than the rear end. He argued that the more extensive damage to the front end established that there were two impacts between it and the rear of the Spivak vehicle, which would establish most of the liability for the accident should rest with defendant Rogers. In response, we argued that without expert testimony to back this contention, it was nothing more than speculation.

Following the trial, Honorable Ralph Porzio ruled that the codefendant Dorota was 100% responsible for the accident, and defendant Rogers was free from comparative negligence.