Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Lyons v. Midnight Sun Transportation Services, Inc. case brief

Lyons v. Midnight Sun Transportation Services, Inc. case brief summary
928 P.2d 1202 (Alaska 1996)

CASE SYNOPSIS
Appellant personal representative challenged a decision from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial District, which found that appellee trucker was negligent, but that his negligence was not a legal cause of the accident. The personal representative contended that giving the sudden emergency instruction was error and that the trucker was speeding and driving negligently.

CASE FACTS
The decedent was killed when she pulled out of a parking lot and was broadsided by the trucker.

DISCUSSION

  • The court found that the jury decided that the trucker was negligent and not exercising the care and prudence a reasonable person would exercise under the circumstances. 
  • However, the court also found that the personal representative's claims were defeated by a lack of causation, as the trucker's negligence was not the accident's legal cause, and the court could not say that the jury's lack of causation finding was unreasonable. 
  • The court asserted that a reasonable jury could have concluded, based on expert testimony, that the decedent caused the accident by abruptly pulling out in front of the trucker and that the trucker's negligence was not a contributing factor. 
  • The court opined that with the element of causation lacking, even the most egregious negligence could not result in liability. 
  • The court concluded that the sudden emergency instruction was generally useless because with or without an emergency, the standard of care was still of a reasonable person under the circumstances. 
  • The court held that error in giving the instruction was harmless and affirmed the decision.
CONCLUSION
The court affirmed the trial court's decision that the trucker was not at fault in the accident, but that the primary cause was the decedent pulling out in front of the trucker, and that the giving of the sudden emergency instruction was harmless error.

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