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Daub v. Daniels

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

September 30, 2013

PAULINE F. DAUB, Plaintiff,
v.
SAMUEL G. DANIELS, WILLIAM BAKER, and BESTFIELD HOMES, LLC., Defendants.

Submitted: June 10, 2013

Upon Consideration of Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law

I. Barry Guerke, Esq., Parkowski, Guerke & Swayze, Dover, Delaware. Attorney for Plaintiff.

Miranda D. Clifton, Esq., Law Office of Cynthia G. Beam, Newark, Delaware. Attorney for Defendant Daniels.

Mary E. Sherlock, Esq., Weber, Gallagher, Simpson, Stapleton, fires & Newby, LLP, Dover, Delaware. Attorney for Defendants Baker and Bestfield Homes.

ORDER

VAUGHN, President Judge.

Upon consideration of the plaintiff's Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law, the defendants' opposition, and the record of the case, it appears that:

1. The plaintiff, Pauline Daub, renews her Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law pursuant to Superior Court Civil Rule 50(b) against defendants William Baker and Baker's employer, Bestfield Homes, LLC, [1] after a jury found that Mr. Baker was not negligent in this personal injury action involving a motor vehicle accident because the accident was the result of a sudden emergency.

2. The basic facts of this case were stated by this Court in its previous order denying Mr. Baker's motion for summary judgement:

On May 6, 2009 at around 6:30 a.m., Samuel Daniels was driving northbound in the left lane of Route 1 when the tailgate of his pickup truck fell off of his vehicle. Daniels testified that after he pulled his vehicle over to retrieve the tailgate from the road, he saw seven to nine vehicles swerve into the right lane to avoid hitting the tailgate. Baker, who was traveling several vehicles behind Daniels, testified that he was traveling one or two car lengths behind the vehicle in front of him. When that vehicle swerved into the right lane, Baker saw the tailgate lying on the road approximately 30 to 50 feet in front of him. Baker testified that he could not avoid hitting the tailgate, because there was traffic in the right hand lane, and he could not swerve onto the shoulder because he would have lost control of his vehicle. As a result, Baker ran over the tailgate, traveling between 60 and 65 miles per hour. The tailgate flew into the air and struck the plaintiff's windshield and then hit a truck operated by Brad Garthwaite, who were also traveling northbound on Route 1. Daniels and Garthwaite testified that traffic was "light" that morning, and Garthwaite testified that he did not see any other vehicles on the road at the time of the incident other than the four vehicles involved in the accident.[2]

3. At the close of trial, Mr. Baker requested that the Court give a sudden emergency jury instruction due to Mr. Baker's sudden encounter of Mr. Daniels' fallen tailgate while driving on Route 1. That pattern jury instruction, which was derived from the Delaware Supreme Court's decisions in Dadds v. Pennsylvania R. Co.[3] and Panaro v. Cullen, [4] stated:

When a person is involved in an emergency situation not of his own making and not created by his own negligence, that person is entitled to act as a reasonably prudent person would under similar circumstances.
Therefore, if you find that Defendant Baker was operating his vehicle in a reasonably prudent manner and was faced with a sudden emergency situation, then I instruct you that Defendant Baker was not required to act as a reasonable person who had sufficient time and opportunity to consider what the best course of action would be, but instead ...

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