Martin v. Herzog Case Brief

Summary of Martin v. Herzog, 228 N.Y. 164, 126 N.E. 814 (1920)

Facts: Plaintiff (P) and her husband were driving in a buggy and defendant (D) was driving his car in the opposite direction. D’s car and P’s buggy collided and P’s husband was killed. P sued arguing that D was negligent for not keeping his car to the right of the center land. D argued that P’s buggy appeared out of the gloom and P’s husband was negligent driving the buggy without the lights on at nighttime.

Procedure: The trial ct. instructed the jury that the fact that P’s husband did not have the lights on does not make his actions negligent. The jury can consider this fact or ignore it altogether. The jury found for P. The Appellate ct. reversed.

Issue: Did the trail judge err by telling the jury that the no lights on the buggy did not make P necessarily negligent?

Holding: Yes

Rationale: According to the court, “…the unexcused omission of the statutory signals is more than some evidence of negligence." The law required P to have the lights on the buggy and it cannot be left up to the jury to consider such action negligent or not negligent. The violation of this rule was negligent, period. Affirmed.

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