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Car Accident Case Poses Jurisdiction Issues


The plaintiff in this case was David Weber. The defendant was Joseph Kowalski.

Case Facts

A car accident occurred on July 15th, 1972. The plaintiff, his wife, and his two young children were traveling in Putnam County when a collision occurred between his vehicle and the one driven by Joseph Kowalski. In 1974, two law suits were initiated in the Dutchess County Supreme Court. The first, in January was filed by Weber and his wife. The second, a month later, was on behalf of their children. The court ordered the two cases consolidated. An application for general preference was made. This was subsequently denied, and the consolidated action was ordered to be transferred to the County Court after 90 days unless the application was renewed, which it was.

The following damages were sought by Weber:

1. $50000 for himself 2. $25000 on behalf of each child 3. $35000 for loss of services 4. $1500 property damage.

A New York Injury Lawyer said that lthough permanent injuries were alleged to have been sustained by the children, E.R. Records state that no significant lacerations were noted. The Weber’s claimed special damages in the amount of $51 for glasses, $2400 for lost wages, $116 for hospital fees and $196 for doctors. Although Mrs. Weber was diagnosed with emotional distress, five letters from physicians dispute any claims of permanent disability.


The initial application for general preference was denied. The plaintiffs argued in support of the grant of preferences based on the value of the claim and the inclusion of the number of plaintiffs which they state requires hearing in the Supreme Court. A Bronx Criminal Lawyer said they also claimed that there is a lack of jurisdiction over the defendant because he is not a Dutchess County resident, and that they have a right to a jury trial.


Policy is shaped to encourage cases to be heard in inferior courts if the actions are within the jurisdiction of those courts. In the case of New York, if a personal injury case is not expected to result in damages higher than $10,000; those cases are placed on a non-preferred calendar. Very few of those cases are ever heard in the Supreme Court.


Essentially, the plaintiffs were unable to convince the court that each claim in the case would potentially result in damages being awarded in the excess of $10000. In order to do so, significant medical evidence would have to be present that supported the claim of serious injuries. No documents as such were provided in the case of the infant’s injuries. A Brooklyn Personal Injury Lawyer said the medical evidence indicates that Mrs. Weber’s injuries were not significant in the first place, and those which were present were recovered from. The total special damages are well within the value of cases which can be heard in County Court.


A problem arises in the case in the case of jurisdiction, because the County Court does not have In Personam jurisdiction over defendants that are not residents. This may or may not have be a problem however, because within the Ninth Judicial District, if the defendant waives any objections related to In Personum jurisdiction, the motion to have the case heard in the Supreme Court based on jurisdictional conflicts can be denied.


The ruling stated that the plaintiff could reargue the case for being heard in the Supreme Court, but that the re-argument was conditionally denied. The denial required that the defendant file an affidavit with the Calendar Clerk which stated that In Personum jurisdictional objections would not be raised. In the event that such an affidavit was not filed, the application for general preference would be approved.

If you encounter legal difficulties, contact Stephen Bilkis & Associates to find out what legal options might be open to you. The circumstances that you are encountering will be understood by our lawyers. They will work with you to protect your interests throughout the proceedings. Convenient locations can be found throughout metropolitan New York. Call any of our offices to receive free a consultation.

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