Supreme Court Overturns Appellate Court On Rear-End Collision Issue

, The Connecticut Law Tribune


Nathan Nasser
Nathan Nasser

Practically every personal injury attorney – or general practice lawyer for that matter – has had a client injured in a rear-end car accident.

After a while, handling those kinds of cases becomes second nature.

But in 2011, the state Appellate Court threw a curveball to trial lawyers across the state when they overturned a jury verdict in the case of a man who was injured in a rear-end collision in Bridgeport.

The appellate court said the plaintiff failed to prove any direct evidence that the defendant caused the crash and his resulting back injury. The evidence, rather, was all circumstantial – that simply the vehicle was hit from behind and the driver heard a loud noise.

Mere evidence of a collision, the court opined, is not itself sufficient to establish negligence.

Upset at the thought of losing an approximately $50,000 verdict after suffering two herniated disks in his back, the plaintiff asked the state Supreme Court to take a second look.

The justices agreed. And in an opinion officially released last week that brings clarity for lawyers statewide handling rear-end collisions, the state Supreme Court has overturned the Appellate Court.

The justices ruled that circumstantial evidence can be enough, as long as it is sufficient. The decision then spells out further guidance for lawyers.

"What the court did was to set forth the steps one should take to prove a case of negligence by the defendant," said Nathan Nasser, of Ventura, Ribeiro & Smith. Nasser has represented the plaintiff, Ronald Rawls, in the rear-end collision since the lawsuit was filed in 2007.

"In Connecticut, the law has been that if a plaintiff gets hit from behind, it doesn't automatically mean that the defendant is negligent," said Nasser. "The plaintiff still has to prove the defendant was at fault by introducing facts that allows the jury to…. come to a fair and reasonable conclusion that the defendant was negligent."

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