Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Sudden Medical Emergency Defense Must Be Pled As Affirmative Defense

In its recent February 22, 2013 decision in the case of Shiner v. Ralston, No. 1791 MDA 2011 (Pa.Super. 2013 Bowes, Ott, Strassburger, JJ.)(per curiam), the Pennsylvania Superior Court outlined the sudden medical emergency defense for motor vehicle accident matters and held that it should be pled as an affirmative defense when applicable.

The Shiner case involved allegations that a defendant driver lost consciousness as a result of a cardiac event immediately prior to the happening of the accident.  The defendant crossed a grassy median and struck the plaintiff's vehicle.  The plaintiff sustained injuries and the defendant was pronounced dead at the scene.

In its opinion the Superior Court distinguished the sudden medical emergency doctrine from the sudden emergency doctrine.  The sudden emergency doctrine provides that an individual is not held to the same ordinary standard of care when faced with a sudden emergency while driving, but rather, must utilize his or her best judgment under the circumstances.  In contrast, the sudden emergency medical defense, if raised as an affirmative defense and if proven, allows a defendant to avoid liability altogether.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click HERE.

Source:  Article by Ben Present: "'Sudden Medical Emergency' Ruled an Affirmative Defense," 36 Pennsylvania Law Weekly 214 (March 5, 2013).

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