The Michigan rule as to the effect of violation of a penal statute in a negligence action is that such violation creates only a prima facie case from which the jury may draw an inference of negligence.
Plaintiff was injured when struck by defendant's vehicle while walking in street, instead of on snow covered sidewalk. Plaintiff appealed appellate court ruling that doctrine of last clear chance did not apply because plaintiff was contributorily negligent for not using sidewalk in violation of penal statute, and found both parties' negligence was proximate cause of plaintiff's injury.
Does Plaintiff's violation of a statute make her negligent?
Violation of a penal statute (in this case the statute requiring pedestrians to walk on the sidewalk, or if there is none, on the left side of the highway facing traffic) by a plaintiff or defendant in a negligence action creates a prima facie case of negligence which may be rebutted by a legally sufficient excuse under the circumstances of the case. It would be unreasonable to adhere to an automatic rule of negligence where observance of a statute would subject a person to danger which might be avoided by disregard of the general rule. The jury was adequately instructed as to the effect of the plaintiff's failure to use the snow-covered sidewalk because the charge was to decide whether sidewalks were "provided" for the plaintiff and whether it was "practicable" for her to walk on the left-hand side of the highway facing traffic as required by statute.