Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket # 346145; Unpublished
Judges O’Brien, Jansen, and Gleicher; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion
Sudden Emergency Doctrine
In this majority unpublished per curiam decision (Gleicher, dissenting), the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order dismissing the plaintiff’s third-party automobile negligence action on the basis of the sudden emergency doctrine. The Court of Appeals determined that the defendant, Samuel Oneal Austin, presented sufficient evidence that he experienced a sudden medical emergency just prior to the underlying collision to overcome the presumption of negligence that exists whenever a driver crosses the centerline and collides head-on with another vehicle, and that the plaintiff, Arthur Ormonde Price, Jr., failed to identify anything that Austin could have done to avoid the underlying collision.
Austin was driving a tractor-trailer on the highway when he had a sudden coughing fit and blacked out. In the course of this event, Austin crossed over the centerline and struck Price’s vehicle head-on. Price then filed the instant action against Austin, and Austin successfully moved for summary disposition, arguing that the sudden emergency doctrine shielded him from liability.
On appeal, Price argued that Austin failed to present sufficient evidence to overcome the presumption of negligence that exists whenever a driver crosses the centerline and strikes another vehicle head-on. The Court of Appeals disagreed, finding that all the evidence suggested that Austin did, in fact, have a sudden medical emergency, and that Price failed to identify anything Austin could have done to avoid the collision given that emergency.
In sum, defendant-driver presented ample evidence that he experienced some type of syncopal episode while driving without any advance notice, and that he was entitled to rebut the presumption of negligence as a matter of law. In response, plaintiff failed to identify anything in the existing record, or to offer any new evidence, to show that defendant-driver could have done anything differently to avoid the accident that occurred here, or that any genuine issue of material fact remained to submit to a jury. Thus, we conclude that the trial court properly granted summary disposition in favor of defendants on the basis of the sudden emergency doctrine.
Justice Gleicher dissented, arguing that the majority committed two “grave legal errors” in its decision: “it decide[d] that [the] defendant’s testimony must be believed, and it misapprehend[ed] the function of the sudden emergency defense.”