Thomas M. Bona, P.C.

Attorneys At Law

Family Affair?

Jury Rejects The Father's Suit Against Son's Business


As part of our continuing commitment to provide outstanding representation and to serve as an information resource, we wish to inform you of a recent case we tried to a verdict.  While there is generally no prohibition in New York against family members suing each other, these cases present particular challenges for a plaintiff.  A recent case that we tried to a verdict demonstrates this. 


In Almakhamreh v. Safe Automotive Diagnostics, the plaintiff, 83 years-old, fell while he was visiting an auto repair shop that was owned and operated by his son in Poughkeepsie, New York.  The father claimed that he had sustained injuries to his face, hand and shoulder, and sued the son’s business, Safe Auto Diagnostics.  He alleged that the business was negligent in maintenance of the premises and that this created a dangerous condition that caused his accident.


The father claimed that he lost his balance and fell after having inadvertently stepped into a depression on the shop’s concrete floor.  The father claimed that his son, the owner, had been aware of the defect and also claimed that the shop was not adequately lighted.  In defending the son’s auto shop, we argued that the depression was a minimal defect that was located in a hallway that the father had traveled many times without incident.  We raised the possibility that the father had simply lost his balance without having stepped into the depression.  We also argued that the son had said that his father tripped on a car’s battery.  The jury returned a defense verdict. 


The jury found that Safe Automotive was negligent in the maintenance of the premises, but that the company’s negligence was not the proximate cause of the father’s fall.  Prior to the commencement of the trial, plaintiff and the defendant entered into a high/low agreement with a low of $5,000 and a high of $50,000.  Thus, the father recovered the $5,000 which was stipulated minimum.  Clearly the jury had doubts about the father’s tale given that the accident was unwitnessed and the father was very familiar with the area he claimed to have fallen.


Even without having to raise the issue, in these situations juries are always skeptical because they are afraid that the suit may be a result of collusion between family members.  A thorough investigation and an aggressive defense can help defeat such claims.


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Thomas M. Bona