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Sudden Emergency Cases Summarized By Injury Lawyer

Fairfax Injury Lawyer Brien Roche Summarizes Sudden Emergency Cases

Brien Roche

Information on sudden emergencies in conjuction with product/personal liability cases. Case research provided by Brien Roche, a personal injury attorney with over three decades of experience.For more information on personal injury see the pages on Wikipedia.

Sudden Emergency-Cases

2009 Hancock-Underwood v. Knight, 277 Va. 127, 670 S.E.2d 720.

Driver of van had complaint of a severe headache immediately before he slumped over the wheel leading to the accident. Neurological expert confirmed that he had a brain bleed. This set of facts did not support sudden emergency instruction.

2007 Vahdat v. Holland, 274 Va. 417, 649 S.E.2d 691.

Defendant claimed that he blacked out due to diabetes while driving his vehicle. Defendant does not have burden of proof as to the defense of sudden emergency; rather, he has simply the burden of producing evidence explaining that the accident was due to something other than defendant’s negligence. That burden is simply the burden of going forward but is not the burden of proof.

2006 Herr v. Wheeler, 272 Va. 310, 634 S.E.2d 317.

Defendant’s vehicle hydroplaned on water during heavy rain storm. A sudden emergency relieves a person of liability if without prior negligence the person is confronted with a sudden emergency and acts as an ordinary prudent person would under the circumstances. The occurrence of standing water on a roadway during a heavy rain storm is a matter of common experience and does not constitute a sudden emergency. Evidence that other drivers were able to proceed without incident through this same area does not warrant a sudden emergency instruction.

2003 Velocity Express Mid-Atlantic v. Hugen, 266 Va. 188, 585 S.E.2d 557.

Defendant asserted application of sudden emergency doctrine. Sudden emergency doctrine relieves a person of liability if without prior negligence on his part, that person is confronted with a sudden emergency and acts as an ordinary prudent person would act. In this case, accident was caused by defendant and as such, evidence did not justify sudden emergency instruction.

2002 Jones v. Ford Motor Co., 263 Va. 237, 559 S.E.2d 592.

Products liability action against Ford alleging sudden acceleration. Contributory negligence instruction may be appropriate since evidence justified conclusion that if alleged defect caused sudden acceleration, then motorist could have stopped car by applying brake pedal. If this instruction was granted, however, then plaintiff was entitled to sudden emergency instruction. Contributory negligence is not bar to breach of warranty claim.

1996 Harrah v. Washington, 252 Va. 285, 477 S.E.2d 281.

Sudden emergency is event that calls for immediate action without giving time for deliberate exercise of judgment. For doctrine to apply, condition confronting operator must be unexpected happening. In this case, defendant was thoroughly familiar with weather conditions and, based on his experience earlier in the morning and his observations as he proceeded, he knew or should have known that a vehicle might be stopped ahead of him in his lane of travel. As such, there was no unexpected happening. In addition, he had time for deliberate exercise of judgment.

1995 Gardner v. Phipps, 250 Va. 256, 462 S.E.2d 91.

Oncoming vehicles collided on snow covered road as defendant lost control and vehicle skidded. Emergency is defined as sudden unexpected happening. This was not emergency.

1994 Bentley v. Felts, 248 Va. 117, 445 S.E.2d 131.

Defendant’s vehicle entered intersection because of failure of power-assisted brakes. Sudden emergency relieves person from liability if, without prior negligence on his part, he is faced with sudden emergency and acts as an ordinary prudent person would act under circumstances. If reasonable persons could disagree on any of these elements then issue is one for jury. Automobile engines do occasionally cut off without warning thereby requiring operator to use increased brake force to stop engine equipped with power-assisted brakes. In this case defendant acknowledged that he may not have used sufficient power. Under facts of this case this failure of brake power was not sudden emergency and in addition defendant may have contributed to its creation by not using sufficient force to stop vehicle.

1990 Chodorov v. Eley, 239 Va. 528, 391 S.E.2d 68.

For sudden emergency to exist, it must be sudden, unexpected, unforeseen happening that calls for immediate action. Rear-end accident. This is not sudden emergency since motorist should know that vehicle in front may stop suddenly.

1990 Garnot v. Johnson, 239 Va. 81, 387 S.E.2d 473.

Rear-ender. Motorist should know that vehicle in front may stop suddenly. Such stopping, absent evidence of unforeseen happening, does not constitute emergency.

1988 Howell v. Cahoon, 236 Va. 3, 372 S.E.2d 363.

Where emergency is created by party’s own negligence, this defense is not available. This negligence need not be sole cause of emergency. Defendant passed vehicle in front of him. In doing so, he stayed in oncoming lane beyond limits of permitted passing zone and was then confronted by oncoming car. This emergency was created by defendant’s negligence. Granting of sudden emergency instruction is error.

1987 Thibodeau v. Vandermark, 234 Va. 15, 360 S.E.2d 171.

Party may not rely on sudden emergency instruction if situation was created in whole or in part by his own negligence. Defendant was speeding on wet road at night when his accelerator stuck. No basis for sudden emergency instruction.

1984 VanCollom v. Johnson, 228 Va. 103, 319 S.E.2d 745.

Plaintiff severely injured by grease fire in kitchen when she picked up burning pan and tried to throw it outside so as to prevent damage and injury to occupants of house. Court refused instruction on assumption of risk but did instruct jury that if it believed from evidence that actions taken by plaintiff were not reasonable under circumstances, then plaintiff cannot recover.

1984 Culberson v. McCloud, 227 Va. 249, 315 S.E.2d 219.

Rear-end accident wherein brake failure alleged. Proof of sudden mechanical failure was uncontroverted. Defendant was unaware of defect in brakes, and there was no evidence that defendant was guilty of any act or omission which brought about emergency. Sudden emergency instruction, therefore, was properly given.

1980 Coleman v. Blankenship Oil Corp., 221 Va. 124, 267 S.E.2d 143.

Plaintiff hit oil slick on road. Sudden emergency instruction given without objection.

1978 Carolina Coach Co. v. Starchia, 219 Va. 135, 244 S.E.2d 788.

Person is excused from liability, if without prior negligence on his part, he is confronted with sudden emergency and acts as ordinarily prudent person would have acted under same or similar circumstances. Vehicle pulling onto roadway may be sudden emergency.

1978 Sneed v. Sneed, 219 Va. 15, 244 S.E.2d 754.

Vehicle left highway and driver endeavored to bring it back onto road but overcompensated. No negligence on part of driver since she was acting in extremis.

1971 Lendvay v. Sobrito, 211 Va. 548, 178 S.E.2d 532.

Defendant struck plaintiff in rear. Defendant admitted that he did not see plaintiff until moment before impact. This conclusively established that he failed to use ordinary care in keeping proper lookout. Sudden emergency instruction properly refused.

1970 Motley v. Doe, 210 Va. 428, 171 S.E.2d 818.

Plaintiff confronted with defendant in his lane 250 feet away. Plaintiff eased on accelerator and then took evasive action. Proper to instruct jury on sudden emergency as to plaintiff.

1969 Walrod v. Matthews, 210 Va. 382, 171 S.E.2d 180.

Steering defect allegedly caused defendant to lose control of car. No allegation that defendant was negligent in operation of vehicle but simply that he should not have been operating vehicle at all because he knew it was defective. No basis for sudden emergency instruction.

1969 Terry v. Fagan, 209 Va. 642, 166 S.E.2d 254.

To be entitled to sudden emergency instruction, party requesting instruction must be free from fault in creating emergency. Defendant not entitled to instruction here.

1968 Jordan v. Taylor, 209 Va. 43, 161 S.E.2d 790.

Doctrine not applicable where defendant’s evidence was that plaintiff’s vehicle came on his side of road and plaintiff’s evidence was to contrary. No evidence of sudden emergency.

1967 Roberts v. Mundy, 208 Va. 236, 156 S.E.2d 593.

One tractor-trailer rear-ended another stalled on roadway. Sudden emergency not available as defense to defendant.

1966 Cook v. Basnight, 207 Va. 491, 151 S.E.2d 408.

Defendant struck plaintiff’s vehicle at intersection when his brakes failed and emergency brake could not stop car in time. Jury was proper tribunal to determine sufficiency of sudden emergency defense.

1966 Shelton v. Mullins, 207 Va. 17, 147 S.E.2d 754.

Child struck between intersections; on facts no sudden emergency was involved and it was error to grant instruction on this issue. Only issue was whether defendant was negligent in not seeing child.

1966 Finch v. McRae, 206 Va. 917, 147 S.E.2d 83.

Automobile accident with defendant’s vehicle blocking passage of plaintiff’s vehicle. Jury issue as to applicability of sudden emergency.

1966 Cowles v. Zahn, 206 Va. 743, 146 S.E.2d 200.

In determining merits of this defense, consider: (1) was situation emergency; (2) was emergency created by defendant’s negligence; (3) did defendant act as ordinarily prudent man.

1963 Barner v. Whitehead, 204 Va. 634, 133 S.E.2d 283.

Dart out case presented sudden emergency. Defendant did not bring his car to stop immediately but slowed down gradually because child was being dragged. Jury question presented as to whether this was reasonable.

1962 Berry v. Hamman, 203 Va. 596, 125 S.E.2d 851.

Police officer apprehending felon shot other officer; confronted with sudden emergency and acted reasonably.

1962 Giles v. St. John, 203 Va. 343, 124 S.E.2d 10.

Sudden emergency instruction properly refused where by defendant’s own testimony, any potential danger had passed at time of accident.

1960 Ragsdale v. Jones, 202 Va. 278, 117 S.E.2d 114.

Intersection accident. Defendant’s own testimony as to speed and fact that he did not see other vehicle until second before impact is indicative that he was not without fault in bringing about sudden emergency and therefore, he was not entitled to instruction.

1960 Stimeling v. Goodman, 202 Va. 111, 115 S.E.2d 923.

Plaintiff saw defendant’s vehicle to left of center. Plaintiff applied brakes and stopped slightly to left of center. Sudden emergency applicable.

1960 Pickett v. Cooper, 202 Va. 60, 116 S.E.2d 48.

Tire blowout was held to justify sudden emergency instruction. When motorist, without prior negligence on his part, is confronted with sudden emergency and acts as ordinarily prudent person would have done under same or similar circumstances, he is not guilty of negligence.

1960 Gabbard v. Knight, 202 Va. 40, 116 S.E.2d 73.

Evidence did not justify giving of sudden emergency instruction where it was shown that infant plaintiff, rather than darting in front of defendant, simply walked or waddled as babies often do.

1960 Hailey v. Johnson, 201 Va. 775, 113 S.E.2d 664.

Dogs unexpectedly ran in front of defendant’s vehicle. His vehicle went out of control in trying to avoid dogs. This may have constituted emergency.

1959 Lindberg v. Goode, 200 Va. 784, 108 S.E.2d 364.

Doctrine of sudden emergency relieves one from consequences of negligence only when person claiming its benefit was without fault in creating emergency and when he responded to it by exercising such care as would man of ordinary prudence. Pedestrian ignoring position of safety and turning back into lane of oncoming car was contributorily negligent and cannot rely on sudden emergency.

1957 Williams v. Service, Inc., 199 Va. 326, 99 S.E.2d 648.

When confronted with sudden emergency, defendant cannot be held liable simply because he did not make wisest choice. Where there is no prior negligence on his part and defendant acts as ordinarily prudent person, then he is not guilty of negligence.

1957 Perlin v. Chappell, 198 Va. 861, 96 S.E.2d 805.

One who negligently places another in position of sudden peril may not complain that other fails to react with wisdom and promptness. Plaintiff hit by bull which had jumped fence.

1956 Brown v. Vinson, 198 Va. 495, 95 S.E.2d 138.

When plaintiff failed to return to his proper side of highway, defendant was confronted with sudden emergency.

1955 Petcosky v. Bowman, 197 Va. 240, 89 S.E.2d 4.

Auto accident. No error committed in refusing defendant’s requested instruction on theory of sudden emergency because defendant’s own testimony showed that he was not without fault in bringing on emergency that he confronted.

1954 Daniels v. Transfer Co., 196 Va. 537, 84 S.E.2d 528.

Defense of sudden emergency does not constitute affirmative defense, shifting burden of proof in case.

1953 Lloyd v. Green, 194 Va. 948, 76 S.E.2d 190.

Although there is no reference to defense of sudden emergency, it apparently was applicable in this case where defendant lost control of vehicle due to impact which was not her fault.

1950 Frazier v. Conner, 191 Va. 481, 61 S.E.2d 880.

Intersection collision. Defendant’s car unexpectedly entered arterial highway from secondary road. Plaintiff on arterial highway claimed he was thus faced with sudden emergency. Men confronted by sudden emergencies are not required to follow safest course.

1950 Virginia Transit Co. v. Durham, 190 Va. 979, 59 S.E.2d 58.

Failure of air line hose on bus. Emergency is event or combination of circumstances which calls for immediate action without allowing time for deliberate exercise of judgment or discretion.

1950 Hinton v. Gallagher, 190 Va. 421, 57 S.E.2d 131.

Driver who, by negligence of another, is suddenly confronted with emergency, is not guilty of negligence if he makes such choice as person of ordinary prudence might make, even though not wisest choice.

1948 Hamilton v. Glemming, 187 Va. 309, 46 S.E.2d 438.

Where defense of sudden emergency would excuse statutory violation, then it should be included in instructions.

1948 South Passenger Motor Lines v. Burks, 187 Va. 53, 46 S.E.2d 26.

Supreme Court indicates its agreement with idea that defense of sudden emergency is not affirmative defense. Where driver of automobile is confronted by sudden emergency and acts as ordinarily prudent person would have done under similar circumstances, he is not guilty of negligence. Person asserting this defense must be free of negligence.

1946 Virginia Stage Lines v. Duff, 185 Va. 592, 39 S.E.2d 634.

Party invoking doctrine of sudden emergency must be without fault. Party creating emergency cannot complain that other party does not pursue wisest course once thrown into emergency. Intersection accident.

1945 Brown v. Wallace, 184 Va. 570, 35 S.E.2d 793.

Defendant thrown into unexpected situation is only required to do what person of ordinary prudence should have done. Intersection collision.

1945 Braxton v. Flippo, 183 Va. 839, 33 S.E.2d 757.

Sudden emergency has no application where emergency is self-imposed. Where defendant is aware of danger of pouring gasoline on hot engine and still does so, he cannot rely on sudden emergency.

1942 Russell v. Kelly, 180 Va. 304, 23 S.E.2d 124.

Imminent peril of head-on collision between two automobiles each traveling at about 45 mph is sudden emergency situation.

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Sudden Emergency Cases Summarized By Injury Lawyer

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