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Biker struck by sick motorist presents question of fact under "sudden emergency" and can sue driver, but not doctor whose office he was leaving.

Bill Wargo was struck by a motorist on his motorcycle in St. Claire Shores.  It turned out that the at-fault driver, an elderly man, was on his way home from a doctor appointment.  The defendant had experienced an episode of blurred vision in his one functional eye as he pulled into an ice cream store; despite this episode, after purchasing ice cream he attempted to drive home and suffered an apparent syncopal episode associated with a myocardial infarction.  While unconscious, he struck and injured Wargo.  Wargo sued him and the doctor for negligence.

The Court ruled that given the conflicting evidence related to the driver's illness and warning, it was clear error for the trial judge to dismiss the claim against him.  The judges noted that under longstanding law, if the driver had warning of a medical event such that it was not "sudden," he could not avail himself of the "sudden emergency" defense to liability.  On the other hand, they cited "Michigan public policy" to the effect that doctors should not owe a duty to persons who are not their patients, and ruled that the situation presented in Wargo did not meet any of the limited exceptions to this doctrine.  Therefore the dismissal of the doctors was upheld.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
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