Martin v. Herzog
COA NY - 1920
- P and her husband were driving at night in a buggy with the lights off.
- They were hit by the D's car while rounding the curve. P's husband was killed in the accident.
- P sued D in negligence. D argued that P's conduct amounted to contributory negligence since there is a statute that requires vehicles to use lights.
- Trial court found for P.
- Appellate court reversed, remanded.
- COA NY affirmed.
- Can a negligence per se argument be utilized by D in order to prove P was negligent and avoid liability?
- Should the violation of a statute be determined by the court to be negligence per se or should that issue be left to the jury?
- A negligence per se argument can be utilized by D in order to prove P was negligent and avoid liability.
- The violation of a statute should be determined by the court to be negligence per se. It is not a jury issue.
- The failure to use lights was definitely a negligent act.
- The trial court instructed the jury to treat the P's behavior as culpable or as innocent, any way that they chose.
- Jurors should not have the discretion to relax the duty that the law imposes on individuals.
- There is a causal connection between the violation of the statute and the harm suffered, so the Ps were liable for contributory negligence in this matter.
- In proving contributory negligence as a defense, a D must show that the violation of the statute proximately caused the injury.