Court refuses to direct verdict against woman who rear-ended motorist on freeway
Emad Hana Bajju sued Laura Christene Brown and State Farm after Brown's car rear-ended Bajju's car on I-696. Bajju was stopped behind a traffic blockage near Royal Oak at the time. Brown testified that she thought she was traveling a reasonable speed, didn't think she was distracted, had slowed to 40 miles per hour because there was snow on the ground, and thought she must have hit "black ice." Citing the "assured clear distance" statute and Brown's warning about existing weather conditions (and lack of any actual evidence of ice), Bajju's attorney asked the trial court to grant a directed verdict of negligence. The Court refused and the jury held that Brown wasn't negligent. On appeal, the verdict was upheld and the Court of Appeals ruled that Bajju wasn't entitled to a directed verdict.
Even though "black ice" has been deemed an "open and obvious" winter condition that cannot form the basis for a victim's injury claim, the court allowed it to provide the foundation for a "sudden emergency" defense by Brown. The Court also held that the trial judge could have refused to rule on the directed verdict motion at all, given that Brown's attorney did not raise the issue until the jury had been instructed.