The use of a statutory violation to establish negligence is a matter of judicial discretion. The jury instruction should be given only if 1. the statute is intended to protect against the result of the violation; 2. the plaintiff is within the class intended to be protected by the statute; and 3. the evidence will support a finding that the violation was a proximate contributing cause of the occurrence. These factors are necessary to a determination of relevance. When a party is alleged to have violated a safety statute, the court may apply the factors above in assessing whether the claimed violation is relevant to the facts presented at trial.
Plaintiff buyer appealed the judgment of the Court of Appeals which affirmed the judgment reducing the jury's award of damages due to the buyer's comparative negligence in the buyer's action for breach of implied warranties and negligence against defendants, seller and manufacturer. The buyer purchased a motorcycle and was injured in an accident later the same day. He filed suit against the seller and manufacturer alleging negligence and breach of implied warranties. The seller and manufacturer argued that their liability was limited by the buyer's failure fo obtain a motorcycle permit as required by statute and his failure to mitigate his damages. The jury awarded damages, but reduced them by 60% based on the finding of comparative negligence.
Was the buyer's statutory violation relevant and did the trial court's jury instruction properly inform the jury of its duty to consider whether the statutory violation was the proximate cause of buyer's injuries?
The court held that the buyer's statutory violation was relevant and that the trial court's jury instruction properly informed the jury of its duty to consider whether the statutory violation was the proximate cause of the buyer's injuries. Although the evidence of the buyer's failure to mitigate damages was weak, there was evidence that the buyer did not follow the recommendations of his doctor, and thus the trial court's instruction on mitigation of damages was proper.
The court affirmed the judgment reducing the buyer's damages.