260.423.9551Call
215 East Berry Street
Fort Wayne, IN 46802

Motorist's Duty to other Motorists

Brown v. Hamilton (Ind. Ct. App. Feb. 28, 2012)

- Originally published February 28, 2012

The Court of Appeals held that a driver who signals to a second driver that it is safe to proceed owes a duty to a third motorist who is injured because of the second driver’s reasonable reliance on the signaling driver. This case used a Webb v. Jarvis analysis and extended the rule announced in Claxton v. Hutton, 615 N.E.2d 471 (Ind. Ct. App. 1993), that a signaling motorist owes a duty to the driver at which he or she directs the signal. The Brown rule is inconsistent with decisions from California, Georgia, Michigan, and Ohio, which hold a motorist’s non-delegable duty of care for other motorists and duty to yield to preferred motorists prohibits that motorist from relying on a signaling motorist. Judge Mathias dissented.

In Brown, the signaling driver was named as a non-party. An interesting question is why the Court (or the parties) framed the issue as one of duty. Non-parties may be assigned fault even if they owed no duty to the plaintiff, as long as they contributed to cause the plaintiff’s injuries. See Bulldog Battery Corp. v. Pica Investments, Inc., 736 N.E.2d 333, 338 (Ind. Ct. App. 2000) (“The nonparty defense is not limited to instances where the named nonparty is or may be liable to the plaintiff.”).

It will be interesting to see if the Supreme Court decides to accept transfer in this case (assuming a petition is filed). The Court has questioned the utility of Webb in the past and this case would seem to provide a good opportunity to address Webb’s ongoing validity. Further, the Supreme Court may wish to clarify the interaction of duty and non-party defenses, as the Court of Appeals and the parties characterization of duty seems to conflict with previous precedent on this point.

Regardless, this case is important for both plaintiff’s and defense attorneys who represent parties involved in traffic accidents. Both sides should quickly determine whether any third parties should be named as defendants or non-parties, as a jury could determine that the signaling party bears substantial fault for the accident – in Brown, the signaling party was assigned 50% of the fault.

Legal Disclaimer

The information contained in the Barrett McNagny LLP website is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice on any subject matter. Furthermore, the information contained on our website may not reflect the most current legal developments. You should not act upon this information without consulting legal counsel.

Your transmission and receipt of information on the Barrett McNagny LLP website, or sending an e-mail to one of our attorneys or staff, will not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Barrett McNagny LLP. If you need legal advice and want to establish an attorney-client relationship with Barrett McNagny LLP, please contact one of our attorneys by telephone, email, or other means of communication, and allow the attorney to confirm that the firm does not represent other persons or entities involved in the matter and that the firm is willing to accept representation. Until such confirmation is provided by one of our attorneys, you should not transmit information to us that you consider confidential. If you do provide information to us, and no attorney-client relationship is established, the information will not be considered confidential or privileged, and our receipt of such information will not preclude us from representing another client in a matter adverse to you.

Any links to other websites are not intended to be referrals or endorsements of those sites.

An attorney-client relationship will NOT be formed merely by sending an email to Barrett McNagny, LLP or to any of its attorneys. Please do not send any information specific to your legal needs until you obtain approval from a Barrett McNagny, LLP attorney, as the content of such email will not be considered confidential or privileged. By sending us an email, you confirm your understanding of this notification. If you agree, you may use the e-mail links on this page to contact an attorney.
YesNo