Before a plaintiff will be granted a favorable jury instruction in a negligence per se situation, the plaintiff must first demonstrate that the plaintiff is among the protected class and, second, that the injury was caused by a harm against which the law was designed to protect.
Defendant's car collided with a car win which plaintiff was seated, injuring plaintiff. Plaintiff sued defendant and the driver of the car, claiming that both parties were negligent. Defendant claimed that the other driver crossed the center-line, and the other driver claimed that the defendant was driving too quickly. At trial, the defendant and the driver offered expert testimony. The trial court issued an instruction to the jury that directed the jury to find the driver and the defendant negligent if (1) they violated one of several specific Alaskan traffic regulations and (2) the violation of the regulation caused the plaintiff's injuries. The traffic regulations required drivers to stay within their own lanes, absent special circumstances, and to refrain from driving at unreasonable speeds based on the conditions at the time. The jury found Ferrell to be negligent and awarded plaintiff $25,000 in damages. Defendant appealed, arguing that the jury instruction was invalid.
Was the jury instruction related to traffic law violations proper under the circumstances?
In affirming the lower court's decision, it held that the jury was properly instructed that if any defendant violated certain traffic regulations and that violation proximately caused the accident, plaintiff had established a prima facie case of negligence that could be overcome by evidence showing that the violation was excusable or justifiable.