Law School Case Brief
Barrett v. Nwaba - 165 Md. App. 281, 885 A.2d 392 (2005)
The boulevard rule, Md. Code Ann., Trans. §§ 21-403 through -404, imposes a positive and exacting duty on the unfavored driver to yield the right of way to traffic on the whole of the favored road. Because the favored driver has a right to assume that the unfavored driver will abide by his duty, if the unfavored driver failed to yield the right-of-way and a collision ensued, the unfavored driver was absolutely liable as a matter of law. The unfavored driver could only escape liability when sued by the favored driver if the evidence established that the favored driver was contributorily negligent and the unfavored driver did not have the last clear chance to avoid the collision.
Plaintiff William Barrett and defendant James Nwaba were involved in a two-car collision wherein Barrett was travelling eastbound on an avenue that had two eastbound lanes. Barrett was in the right-hand lane when he was struck in the rear passenger door by Nwaba's vehicle as Nwaba attempted to exit a gas station, trying to turn right onto the avenue. As a result of the accident, Barrett incurred various expenses, including substantial medical bills. Thereafter Barrett filed a complaint Maryland state district court alleging that Nwaba had negligently caused the accident. He sought $ 25,000 in damages. The case was removed to state circuit court. At the close of all evidence, Barrett moved for partial judgment on the issue of Nwaba's primary negligence, arguing that the Maryland boulevard rule, Md. Code Ann., Trans. §§ 21-403 through -404, imposed on Nwaba a duty to yield to the traffic on the avenue, and because he failed to do so, Nwaba was negligent as a matter of law. Accordingly, Barrett requested that the court find Nwaba negligent and submit only the issue of Barrett's contributory negligence to the jury. The circuit court denied the motion. The jury later found that Nwaba was not negligent and therefore did not consider whether Barrett was contributorily negligent. Barrett filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and, alternatively, a motion for a new trial, which were denied. Barrett appealed.
Did the trial court err in denying Barrett's partial motion for judgment on the issue of Nwaba's primary negligence under the Maryland boulevard rule?
The appellate court reversed the circuit court's judgment and remanded the matter for further proceedings. The court agreed with Barrett that the evidence, even when viewed in the light most favorable to Nwaba, established that Barrett was the favored driver on a highway and that Nwaba, upon attempting to enter that highway, failed to yield as required by the "boulevard rule." Nwaba failed to produce evidence legally sufficient to create a factual dispute to defeat Barrett's motion for judgment and create an issue for the jury. Thus, the circuit court erred in denying Barrett's motion for judgment with regard to Nwaba's negligence as a matter of law.
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