A Prank Played Upon Defendant Driver by a Passenger Warranted Instructing the Jury on the Emergency Doctrine
The Second Department, over a dissent, determined the trial court properly charged the jury on the emergency doctrine. A jury found that the defendant was not negligent in the operation of her vehicle. A passenger in defendant’s car had pulled the string on her bikini top causing the top to fall off. The court wrote:
In assessing the propriety of whether to instruct a jury on the emergency doctrine, the trial court must “make the threshold determination that there is some reasonable view of the evidence supporting the occurrence of a qualifying emergency’” … . “Only then is a jury instructed to consider whether a defendant was faced with a sudden and unforeseen emergency not of the actor’s own making and, if so, whether [the] defendant’s response to the situation was that of a reasonably prudent person” … . “The emergency instruction is, therefore, properly charged where the evidence supports a finding that the party requesting the charge was confronted by a sudden and unexpected circumstance which leaves little or no time for thought, deliberation or consideration’” … .
Here, “[v]iewing the evidence in the light most favorably toward giving the requested emergency doctrine instruction to the jury” … , based upon [defendant’s] testimony, there is a reasonable view of the evidence that her conduct was the product of a “ sudden and unexpected circumstance’” … . Contrary to our dissenting colleague’s determination, [defendant’s] general awareness that …a passenger in her vehicle…had engaged in certain distracting conduct while in the car would not preclude a jury from deciding that [defendant] did not anticipate that he would suddenly pull the strings on her bikini top, thereby causing the top to fall and her breasts to be exposed … . It was for the jury to find whether [defendant] was faced with a sudden and unforeseen emergency not of her own making and, if so, whether her response to the situation was that of a reasonably prudent person… . Pelletier v Lahm, 2013 NY Slip Op 07718, 2nd Dept 11-20-13