Ind. Consol. Ins. Co. v. Mathew

402 N.E.2d 1000 (Ind. Ct. App. 1980)



One who is confronted with a sudden emergency not of his own making is not chargeable with negligence if he acts according to his best judgment.


When the insured's brother was attempting to start a riding lawnmower in the insured's garage, the lawnmower caught fire. The insured's brother tried extinguish the flame but was unsuccessful, so he ran to his home to call the fire department. When he returned, the garage was totally engulfed in flames. The insurer brought an action against the insured's brother, alleging that he breached a duty owed to the insured to exercise due care in starting the lawnmower and therefore stood liable for the damages resulting from his negligence. The trial court found that the insured's brother's actions did not constitute negligence and overruled the insurer's motion to reconsider.


Is a person negligent if he acts in his best judgment, which is consistent with that of an ordinary prudent person?




Negligence stems from conduct resulting in an unreasonable risk of harm. In assessing reasonableness, the court assesses how another, under the same circumstances, would likely act. This is known as the reasonable person standard. In this case, the issue is how a reasonable person would react upon an emergency suddenly arises. In this case, the court found that there was an exercise of the due care that an ordinarily prudent person would have exercised “under the same or similar circumstances.”

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