A state appellate court recently published an opinion that allowed a plaintiff’s wrongful death case to proceed. Based on this latest ruling by the highest state court and its ultimate authority over questions of state law, the plaintiff may yet receive compensation for his negligence claim.
The plaintiff in the case of Hain v. Jamison is the husband of a woman who was struck and killed by one of the defendants in a roadside accident that occurred one evening when the decedent exited her car on a rural road to assist a day-old calf owned by another of the defendants that had escaped its enclosure and was walking on the roadway. The plaintiff sued the other driver for negligence, as well as the owner of the farm that allowed the calf to escape.
The farm denied legal responsibility for the woman’s death, arguing that the negligent acts of the other driver and the decedent herself were intervening causes that prevented the farm from being liable for the death, even if a jury did find that the farm had negligently allowed the calf to escape.
The Trial Court Denies the Defendant’s Motion
Before a trial was held on the plaintiff’s claim, the farm defendant requested that the court grant them judgment as a matter of law, based on their claim that intervening acts of negligence made a finding of liability for the decedent’s death inappropriate under state law. Finding that questions of causation are matters of fact to be determined by a jury, the trial court denied the defendant’s motion.
The defendant appealed the trial court’s ruling, which was reversed by the intermediate appellate court. That court determined that the alleged negligence of the farm owner could not be the legal cause for the plaintiff’s death because it merely “furnished the occasion” for the plaintiff and the other driver to be negligent and was not the legal cause of the crash.
The State High Court Tries to Clarify the Law of Causation
On the plaintiff’s appeal to the highest court in the state, the court admitted that the law of causation for negligence claims is far from clear-cut, and each case must be evaluated individually to determine if a judge should dismiss a plaintiff’s claim before trial or if a jury should appropriately determine liability, fault, and damages. Applying the general rule that juries may only find parties responsible for the reasonably foreseeable effects of their negligence, the state high court determined that the decedent’s actions in getting out of her car to assist the animal on a dark roadway were a reasonably foreseeable response to an escaped domestic farm animal wandering loose on a roadway.
Have You Been Injured in a South Florida Accident?
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed by the negligent act of another party, it can be difficult to determine if a claim for damages is appropriate. The appropriate legal cause of an event may vary from state to state (and even court to court), and also it may change based on the individual circumstances surrounding what occurred. In reality, the quality of each side’s legal representation likely has a disproportionately large effect on which allegations will be thrown out by a judge and which will result in substantial financial awards to the plaintiff. The experienced and dedicated South Florida negligence and wrongful death attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank have the knowledge and judgment to competently handle your case in hopes of obtaining the damages that you deserve. At Friedman, Rodman & Frank, we represent victims in all types of negligence claims, including auto accidents. Contact us by phone at 877-448-8585 or through our website to schedule a meeting today.
More Blog Posts:
Rejection of Plaintiff’s Slip-and-Fall Case Affirmed by Appellate Court on Review, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published December 28, 2016.
Plaintiff in Defective Tire Wrongful Death Case Will Not Have Evidence Excluded for Spoliation, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published January 4, 2017.