CACI 452 Sudden Emergency

California Civil Jury Instructions CACI

452 Sudden Emergency

[Name of plaintiff/defendant] claims that [he/she/nonbinary pronoun] was not negligent because [he/she/nonbinary pronoun] acted with reasonable care in an emergency situation. [Name of plaintiff/defendant] was not negligent if [he/she/nonbinary pronoun] proves all of the following:

1.That there was a sudden and unexpected emergency situation in which someone was in actual or apparent danger of immediate injury;

2.That [name of plaintiff/defendant] did not cause the emergency; and

3.That [name of plaintiff/defendant] acted as a reasonably careful person would have acted in similar circumstances, even if it appears later that a different course of action would have been safer.

Directions for Use

The instruction should not be given unless at least two courses of action are available to the party after the danger is perceived. (Anderson v. Latimer (1985) 166 Cal.App.3d 667, 675 [212 Cal.Rptr. 544].)

Additional instructions should be given if there are alternate theories of negligence.

Sources and Authority

“Under the ‘sudden emergency’ or ‘imminent peril’ doctrine, ‘a person who, without negligence on his part, is suddenly and unexpectedly confronted with peril, arising from either the actual presence, or the appearance, of imminent danger to himself or to others, is not expected nor required to use the same judgment and prudence that is required of him in the exercise of ordinary care in calmer and more deliberate moments.’ ‘A party will be denied the benefit of the doctrine … where that party’s negligence causes or contributes to the creation of the perilous situation.’” (Abdulkadhim v. Wu (2020) 53 Cal.App.5th 298, 301–302 [266 Cal.Rptr.3d 636], internal citations omitted.)

“The doctrine of imminent peril is available to either plaintiff or defendant, or, in a proper case, to both.” (Smith v. Johe (1957) 154 Cal.App.2d 508, 511 [316 P.2d 688].)

“Whether the conditions for application of the imminent peril doctrine exist is itself a question of fact to be submitted to the jury.” (Damele v. Mack Trucks, Inc. (1990) 219 Cal.App.3d 29, 37 [267 Cal.Rptr. 197].)

“The doctrine of imminent peril is properly applied only in cases where an unexpected physical danger is presented so suddenly as to deprive the driver of his power of using reasonable judgment. [Citations.] A party will be denied the benefit of the doctrine of imminent peril where that party’s negligence causes or contributes to the creation of the perilous situation. [Citations.]” (Shiver v. Laramee (2018) 24 Cal.App.5th 395, 399 [234 Cal.Rptr.3d 256].)

“ ‘The test is whether the actor took one of the courses of action which a standard man in that emergency might have taken, and such a course is not negligent even though it led to an injury which might have been prevented by adopting an alternative course of action.’ [Citation.]” (Schultz v. Mathias (1970) 3 Cal.App.3d 904, 912–913 [83 Cal.Rptr. 888].)

“An emergency or peril under the sudden emergency or imminent peril doctrine is a set of facts presented to the person alleged to have been negligent. It is that actor’s behavior that the doctrine excuses. It is irrelevant for purposes of the sudden emergency doctrine whether [defendant’s] lane change created a dangerous situation for [plaintiff] or anyone else; the only relevant emergency is the one [defendant] faced.” (Abdulkadhim, supra, 53 Cal.App.5th at p. 302, internal citations omitted, original italics.)

“The doctrine of imminent peril applies not only when a person perceives danger to himself, but also when he perceives an imminent danger to others.” (Damele, supra, 219 Cal.App.3d at p. 36.)

“[T]he mere appearance of an imminent peril to others—not an actual imminent peril—is all that is required.” (Damele, supra, 219 Cal.App.3d at p. 37.)

Secondary Sources

6 Witkin, Summary of California Law (11th ed. 2017) Torts, §§ 1439, 1449–1451
California Tort Guide (Cont.Ed.Bar 3d ed.) § 4.7
1 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 1, Negligence: Duty and Breach, §§ 1.03, 1.11, 1.30 (Matthew Bender)
33 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 380, Negligence (Matthew Bender)
16 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 165, Negligence, § 165.250 (Matthew Bender)