Sunday, February 3, 2013

Law v. Superior Court case brief

Law v. Superior Court case summary
755 P.2d 1135 (Ariz. 1988)
Tort Law

PROCEDURAL HISTORY: The Arizona Court of Appeals, Division One, vacated a protective order, which precluded discovery concerning the plaintiff accident victims' seat belt use in a personal injury action. The defendant tortfeasor appealed.

FACTS: In an auto negligence case, the tortfeasor sought discovery on the accident victims' use of their seatbelts. The victims contended that seat belt use was irrelevant because they had no duty to wear them.


The court held that irrespective of a duty to avoid injuring others, under comparative fault principles, nonuse of a seat belt was a factor that a jury could consider and use to reduce damages.


-Fault is acts or omissions that are in any measure negligent or reckless toward the person or property of the actor or others, or that subject a person to strict tort liability. Fault also is unreasonable failure to avoid an injury or to mitigate damages. Legal requirements of causal relation apply both to fault as the basis for liability and to contributory fault.

-Under the comparative fault statute, each person is under an obligation to act reasonably to minimize foreseeable injuries and damages. If a person chooses not to use an available, simple safety device, that person may be at "fault."


The court stated that the "seat belt defense" could be used (1) where the date of the injury was after the effective date of the comparative negligence statute, (2) where the injured party was of an age and discretion that his or her nonuse could be considered as "fault", (3) when the nonuse was unreasonable under all of the circumstances, (4) where nonuse either caused injuries which would not have occurred had the restraint been used or enhanced those injuries that did occur, and (5) where the evidence showed with reasonable probability the degree of enhancement. The defense was not based upon a statutory or common law duty, but on a person's obligation to act reasonably to minimize foreseeable injuries and damages.

CONCLUSION: The court approved the portions of the opinion of the lower court that conformed to its opinion, and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with its holding.

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