Zeni v. Anderson
Supreme Court of MI - 1976
- P was walking on a roadway facing away from the traffic because the sidewalk was not safe due to snow.
- P was hit by D's car. P sued D in negligence.
- D argued that P's conduct constituted contributory negligence since it was a violation of a statute to walk on the road.
- Trial court found for P.
- Appellate court reversed, remanded.
- MI Supreme Court reversed, found for P.
- How should a court treat a violation of a statute in a negligence case?
- A court can treat a violation of a statute in a negligence case in three possible ways…
- Violation of a statute automatically creates negligence per se.
- Violation of the statute is only evidence of negligence, so a jury decides if the person violation the statute falls below the acceptable standard of care.
- Violation of the statute is a rebuttable presumption of negligence which can only be overcome by positive and unequivocal evidence of reasonable excuse or justification. (used by this court)
- The court should decide if the statute applies first.
- Then, it is the job of the court to see if there is an adequate excuse.
- Slapping negligence per se on every violation of statute creates a sort of strict liability.