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HRRV in the Courtroom 2018

Scaley-Schaefer v. Brusca
Supreme Court, Nassau County
Index No. 10064/2015
January 16, 2018

Summary Judgment Granted to Festival Organizer in Connection with Golf Cart Accident

The Oyster Festival is an annual event held in Oyster Bay, New York, featuring an oyster eating contest, a handcrafts tent, live music, various food vendors and other attractions. It is organized by the Oyster Bay Charitable Fund. On October 19, 2013, plaintiff Margaret Scaley-Schaefer attended the festival with multiple family members. She was involved in an accident and eventually filed suit.

While standing near a food vendor, Scaley-Schaefer’s foot was run over by a golf cart driven by Robert Brusca, who was affiliated with two nonprofit organizations that were serving as food vendors. Brusca had just delivered food obtained from a nearby restaurant to the tent of one of the vendors, and was in the process of returning the cart to its parking location. He was not employed by or otherwise affiliated with the Oyster Bay Fund.

Scaley-Schafer and her husband — asserting a derivative claim — filed suit against the Oyster Bay Fund, Brusca and the two nonprofit organizations that he was affiliated with. They asserted that all of the named defendants were negligent for allowing her accident to occur. Specifically as to the Oyster Bay Fund, they asserted that inadequate protocols were in place to avoid the occurrence of accidents like the one in question.

HRRV, on behalf of the Oyster Bay Fund, moved for summary judgment, arguing that it was not affiliated with Brusca and therefore could not be held liable for the accident as a matter of law. More specifically, and in addition to other arguments, HRRV asserted that any alleged action or inaction on the part of the Oyster Bay Fund was not the proximate cause of the accident, as any fault for the happening of the accident was attributable to Brusca’s failure to exercise due care. It was noted that Brusca’s actions, or inaction, constituted an independent, intervening act, severing the nexus between any claimed negligence attributed to the Oyster Bay Fund.

In opposition, counsel for Scaley-Schaefer and her husband as well as counsel for some of the co-defendants, argued that the Oyster Bay Fund should have set up lanes of travel for golf carts throughout the Oyster Festival, so as to ensure that they were not used in pedestrian areas. HRRV argued that there was no factual, expert or legal basis to indicate that the Oyster Bay Fund was under any obligation to do so.

HRRV’s summary judgment motion on behalf of the Oyster Bay Fund was granted by Judge James P. McCormack of Supreme Court, Nassau County. The judge noted that the Oyster Bay Fund met its burden as a matter of law on the issue of proximate cause, holding that Brusca’s “actions in the manner in which he drove the cart [were] an intervening, [superseding] cause.” In opposition, Judge McCormack noted that the other parties did not address the issue of proximate cause and, in any event, offered “no evidence or legal argument” to establish that the Oyster Bay Fund “should have arranged for specific cordoned-off lanes in which the golf carts could travel.” He therefore granted summary judgment to the Oyster Bay Fund.

Carla Varriale and Shawn Schatzle represented the Oyster Bay Charitable Fund.

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome

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