Cervelli v. Graves

661 P.2d 1032 (Wyo. 1983)

 

RULE:

In reviewing alleged errors in jury instructions, a finding of error is not alone sufficient to reverse; prejudicial error must be found. Prejudicial error is never presumed; it must be established by the parties. If it is established that an instruction or instructions had a tendency to confuse or mislead the jury with respect to the applicable principles of law, reversal is proper.

FACTS:

While on an icy, slick road, Plaintiff driver's pickup truck began to "fishtail" and slide. An experienced, professional truck driver approached Plaintiff from behind in his employer's cement truck. While attempting to pass the swerving pickup truck, Defendant lost control of the cement truck and the vehicles collided into one another. Plaintiff filed a negligence action against Defendant and his employer for injuries resulting from the collision, and the trial court held that Defendants were not negligent.

ISSUE:

May a court consider a person's skill as part of the totality of the circumstances in determining whether that person is negligent?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

The court held that: (1) in determining negligence, the jury should be allowed to consider the totality of the circumstances; (2) the jury charge on the reasonable person standard was erroneous because it contained an incorrect statement of law and was misleading in unduly limiting the circumstances in which the jury could consider by taking out of their purview, in instructing them to disregard, the circumstances of the parties' exceptional skill or knowledge; (3) Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 31-7-109 (Cum. Supp. 1982) did not create a higher standard of care for possessors of a successively higher class of license; and (4) as such, all drivers were held to the same standard of due care.

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