The Law School Authority

Dunleavy v. Miller Case Brief

Summary of Dunleavy v. Miller, New Mexico Supreme Court, 1993

Plaintiffs: Julie Dunleavy Defendant: Steven Miller

Facts: -P and D collided at intersection in Santa Fe.

-Miller tried to turn left, and his car went directly in path of Dunleavy’s car.

-Dunleavy braked before collision; her car skidded and veered to the left; struck P’s car.

-No evidence that D braked or took any evasive action. Ticket for failure to yield.

Proceedings: -Dunleavy filed complaint for personal injuries as a result of Miller’s negligence.

-Dunleavy requested trial ct. to instruct jury according to UJI Civil 1617.

-Trial ct. declined to give requested instruction.

-Dunleavy appealed, arguing that trial ct. had failed to give jury instruction on sudden emergency.

P’s arguments:

D’s arguments: -Miller contends ct. should abolish use of jury instruction on sudden emergency doctrine as contained in UJI Civil 11617.

-Says instruction merely restates reasonably prudent person standard of care that unduly emphasizes “under the circumstances” portion of standard, thereby confusing jury in efforts to apply proper standard of care to conduct of actor.

Issue: Is the sudden emergency doctrine underlying New Mexico’s uniform jury instructions necessary and should it be used in instructing the jury in a negligence case?

Holding: The sudden emergency doctrine underlying New Mexico’s uniform jury instructions is not necessary and it should no longer be used in instructing jury in a negligence case.

Ruling: Reversed to Ct. Of Appeals and reinstates verdict of jury and judgment of trail ct.

Reasoning: -Ct. Agrees with D’s reasoning.

-Instruction overemphasizes one portion of the case.

-It confuses jury by implying that a different standard of care applies in a sudden emergency. It connotes that a sudden emergency excuses ordinary negligence instead of simply being one of the circumstances to be considered.

-Sudden emergency can be brought to jury’s attention by counsel.

Evaluation: Definition of sudden emergency: “Recognizes that when a person is confronted with a sudden or unexpected event calling for immediate action, that person does not have the opportunity to weight the safety of alternative courses of action and thus cannot be expected to act with the same accuracy of judgment as one who has had time to reflect on the situation.

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