Brief Fact Summary. The original action in this case arose out of a highway accident between a truck owned and operated by Structural Metals and Joe Polanco (Defendants) respectively, and an automobile in which three people were killed, including Mrs. Impson, and two others were injured (Plaintiffs). The trial judge ruled that Polanco was negligent as a matter of law and entered judgment for the Plaintiffs. The appeals court held that Defendant had submitted excuses sufficient excuses that the issue of negligence should be brought before a jury. Plaintiffs appealed.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Where a party violates a statute, he must present some legally substantial excuse or justification.
Issue. What excuses and/or justifications are legally acceptable in a negligence action?
Held. The court affirmed the trial court’s ruling that there was no evidence offered of any legally acceptable excuse or justification. The violation was, as a matter of law, unexcused. Plaintiffs were thus entitled to a judgment.
Discussion. An excused violation of a legislative enactment is not negligence. Excusable violations (not exclusive), fall into five categories, including, but not limited to: a) the violation is reasonable because of the actor’s incapacity; b) he neither knows nor should know of the occasion for compliance; c) he is unable after reasonable diligence or care to comply; d) he is confronted by an emergency not due to his own misconduct; and e) compliance would involve a greater risk of harm to the actor or to others. Restatement of Torts (Second) (1965).