Duty, breach of duty, causation, and harm are the separate and distinct elements of a negligence claim, all of which must be proven before defendant can be held liable for plaintiff's injuries.
The decedent was killed when she pulled out of a parking lot and was broadsided by the trucker. The court found that although trucker was negligent, his negligence was not a legal cause of the accident. Thus, the personal representative of the decedent appealed the decision contending that giving the sudden emergency instruction was error and that the trucker was speeding and driving negligently.
Was the trucker's negligence the primary cause of the accident where it was shown that another vehicle pulled out in front of him?
The court affirmed the trial court's decision that the trucker was not at fault in the accident, but that the primary cause was the decedent pulling out in front of the trucker, and that the giving of the sudden emergency instruction was harmless error. The court concluded that the sudden emergency instruction was generally useless because with or without an emergency, the standard of care was still of a reasonable person under the circumstances. The court held that error in giving the instruction was harmless and affirmed the decision.