Applying "sudden emergency" doctrine to a motorist's illness
The Supreme Court unanimously reversed a trial court's grant of summary disposition to a motorist who rear-ended the accident victim at a freeway exit. The case is White v. Taylor Distributing, and the Court affirmed the Court of Appeals' reversal of the trial court's decision in a memorandum opinion. The defendant claimed that he "blacked out" immediately before striking the plaintiff's car and related a history of sudden onset diarrhea and fainting that started about an hour before. He had stopped initially at a freeway rest area, but decided to drive on when he was feeling better and "did not have far to go".
The Supreme Court noted that the Defendant was presumed to be negligent, since he violated the "assured clear distance rule", and bore the burden of proving that the accident was the result of a "sudden emergency not of his own making". The Court also noted that his account of the events leading up to the collision contained inconsistencies. In all, a jury question was created with regard to whether the Defendant's response to his gastric upset or syncopal episode was reasonable, and with regard to whether the problem he faced was "sudden" and not of "his own making".