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Holtz v. Holder - 101 Ariz. 247, 418 P.2d 584 (1966)

Rule:

The correct rule of liability in consecutive collision cases is whether two or more persons acting independently are guilty of consecutive acts of negligence closely related in point of time, and cause damage to another under circumstances where the damage is indivisible, i. e., it is not reasonably possible to make a division of the damage caused by the separate acts of negligence, the negligent actors are jointly and severally liable. The damage is indivisible when the triers of fact decide that they cannot make a division or apportionment thereof among the negligent actors.

Facts:

Plaintiffs Robert E. Holtz and Cynthia A. Holtz bring this appeal from a jury award of a general verdict, rendered in favor of defendants James E. Holder and Carnation Company in a motor vehicle action, in which it is alleged that plaintiff Cynthia A. Holtz was injured as a result of the negligence of the two defendants. Holtz's injuries resulted after immediate consecutive collisions involving Holder's car, followed by a Carnation Company truck.

Issue:

May the trial court instruct the jury as to what its verdict must be, as far as the defense of contributory negligence is concerned?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The court held that a trial court could not instruct the jury as to what its verdict must be, as far as the defense of contributory negligence was concerned. The giving of a mandatory instruction in favor of the car driver, Holder, constituted a fundamental and reversible error, in that it deprived the injured parties of a constitutional right. The correct rule of liability in consecutive collision cases was where two or more persons acting independently were guilty of consecutive acts of negligence closely related in point of time, and caused damage to another under circumstances where the damage was indivisible, the negligent actors were jointly and severally liable.

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