Monday, November 11, 2013

Derheim v. N. Fiorito Co. case brief

Derheim v. N. Fiorito Co. case brief summary
492 P.2d 1030 (Wash. 1972)

Defendant construction company sought review of the decision of the Superior Court for Clark County (Washington). The jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff injured driver for personal injuries that he incurred in a collision with a dump truck operated by the construction company's employee. The Court of Appeals certified the appeal to the court after concluding that the "seat belt defense" was a fundamental issue of broad public interest.


The injured driver was not wearing his seat belt when he collided with a dump truck driven by the construction company's employee. The dump truck was attempting to make a left turn from the right side of the road when the injured driver's car impacted with the truck. The trial court's jury instructions advised the jury of the rules of the road that the dump truck driver was required to follow, and the trial court ruled on the injured driver's motion in limine that the construction company was prohibited from making any reference to the injured driver's failure to wear a seat belt.


  • The court affirmed the trial court's judgment, finding that the rules of the road applied to the dump truck driver because Wash. Rev. Code § 46.61.030 did not exempt the dump truck driver from the rules of the road when he was driving to and from a highway construction site. 
  • Therefore, the jury instructions were proper. Additionally, the court found that the trial court properly rejected the "seat belt defense" because it was extremely unfair to mitigate the injured driver's damages in an accident for which he was in no way responsible, particularly when there was no statutory duty to wear seat belts.

The court affirmed the trial court's judgment in favor of the injured driver finding that the trial court correctly refused to admit evidence on the "seat belt defense."

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