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Tropical Exterminators, Inc. v. Murray - 171 So. 2d 432 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1965)

Rule:

Negligence is not chargeable against the operator of a motor vehicle who, while driving, suffers a sudden loss of consciousness from an unforeseen cause.

Facts:

The parties were approaching each other on a highway when the automobile driven by an employee of appellant suddenly turned directly into the path of the plaintiffs' automobile, causing an accident. The plaintiffs filed a personal injury case alleging negligence, which the defendants denied in their answer. In a deposition, the appellant's employee stated he could recollect nothing after entering the highway until someone was picking him up off the ground after the collision. From the employee's testimony, it appeared that he suffered a sudden blackout or loss of consciousness. The trial court ordered a summary judgment entered in favor of the plaintiffs. On appeal, the appellants contended that the trial court erred when it granted summary judgment on the issue of liability in favor of appellees because its employee suddenly lost consciousness while driving.

Issue:

Did the trial court err in granting summary judgment on the issue of liability in favor of appellees because its employee suddenly lost consciousness while driving?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The Court reversed the grant of summary judgment in favor of appellee plaintiffs on the issue of liability. The Court stated that there was no negligence when an accident was caused by a sudden unforeseeable loss of consciousness. The Court stated that the question was whether the loss of consciousness had to have been pled as an affirmative defense. Appellant contended that it did not. The Court stated that an affirmative defense did not deny the opposing party's claim, but raised a new matter which defeated an otherwise apparently valid claim. The Court held that in the current situation, there was no negligence when it was caused by a loss of consciousness, therefore a general denial of negligence as set forth in the answer was sufficient. 

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