Rubinfeld v. City of New York – Case Brief Summary (New York)

In Rubinfeld v. City of New York, 263 AD2d 448, 692 N.Y.S.2d 706 (1999) the Appellate Division, Second Department reversed a decision of the trial court, which denied the City's post-trial motion to dismiss.

The plaintiff in Rubinfeld was a pedestrian who was struck by a vehicle as she crossed an intersection in which the "walk/don't walk" signal was not functioning.

The plaintiff noted that the light was not working, looked in both directions of traffic, and crossed the street, where she was struck by an approaching vehicle. (Rubinfeld v. City of New York, supra).

The Rubinfeld court wrote:

Under these circumstances, we conclude that the inoperative status of the "walk/don't walk" signal was not the proximate cause of Plaintiff's accident and thus there is no basis for liability against the defendant City of New York.

Although the issue of proximate cause is generally one to be determined by the finder of fact, it is the function of the court to determine if a prima facie case of causation has been established in the first instance. Moreover, it is well settled that to establish a prima facie case, a plaintiff must show that "defendant's negligence was a substantial cause of the events which produced the injury." (Rubinfeld v. City of New York, 263 AD2d at 450.)