Wright v. Carroll, an appeal heard in the Kentucky Supreme Court, involved a woman who sustained serious personal injury to her legs after defendant’s trailer hit her car.
Defendant was driving a tractor-trailer in the southbound lane of a two-lane highway. Defendant approached a blind curve just before an intersection. According to court records, there was a sign warning of the blind intersection and testimony that defendant traveled the same road many times before, as it was on his regular route.
When defendant rounded the curb, he saw multiple vehicles in the same lane ahead, and slammed on his breaks to avoid a crash. His breaks locked up, leaving over a hundred feet of skid marks. He drove into a ditch and managed to avoid the vehicles directly ahead, but his trailer swung into the northbound lane and hit plaintiff’s car. Her injuries were considered severe.
Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against driver and driver’s employer, who owned the truck. The case was tried before a jury that was instructed on the sudden emergency doctrine. This state law doctrine allowed a jury to find that defendant’s conduct was not negligent if he was responding to a sudden unforeseen emergency situation. The jury used this doctrine to find for defendant. Plaintiff appealed.
On the initial appeal, the court held the sudden emergency doctrine did not apply, because the cars defendant swerved to avoid were properly in a turning lane at the time. This was neither unforeseeable nor an emergency.
The case was retried and the jury again found for defendant. Plaintiff appealed, asserting that there was no question as to liability, and her directed verdict should have been granted, leaving a trial on damages only. The appellate court agreed.
Defendant appealed to the state supreme court, which held thr lower appellate court was correct in its ruling.
As our Boston car accident attorneys can explain, crashes involving multiple vehicles can involve complex litigation. In some cases, a driver will swerve to avoid hitting a car, and then hit another vehicle in the process. In this situation, we need to investigate whether the swerving driver was in any way negligent. If so, he or she may be a proper defendant in the car accident lawsuit.
In Wright, defendant argued that testimony established in the first trial should have been controlling in the second trial under a law of the case doctrine. The court held it was proper for the trial court to consider the evidence separately in the second case. The court also noted there was significantly less evidence in the second trial to show that defendant was acting in a reasonable and non-negligent manner.
It was driver’s responsibility to operate his commercial tractor-trailer at a speed that would allow him to safely stop if vehicles were in the turn lane. He had driven this route many times and saw the sign indicating the intersection. He made a decision to maintain an unsafe speed because he believed it was unlikely that cars would be in the turn lane when he arrived.
For this reason, he was deemed liable.
If you are injured in an accident in Massachusetts, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment: 1-888-367-2900.
Wright v. Carroll, October 23, 2014, Kentucky Supreme Court
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