Answer To MBE Question From December 7th

(D) is correct.


Issue: Whether the pedestrian can recover under negligence per se against the truck driver.


Rule: Negligence per se applies if a statute codifies a duty for the benefit of a class of people.  Statutes can  create  a  special  duty  of  care  in  addition  to  or  in  place  of  the  general  duty  of  care  under  the  “reasonable person standard”.  A  statute  (criminal  or  civil)  will  give  rise  to  a  special  or  specific  duty  of  care and render a defendant liable to plaintiff in negligence if the statute itself is clear and unambiguous, it specifies exactly what conduct or duty is required, it identifies a class of persons who owe the duty, and  it  sets  forth  conduct  that  establishes  fault. It also must appear that the legislature sought to  prevent the  type  of  injury  actually  suffered  by  the  victim;  that  is  the  victim  is  a  member  of  the  class  of  persons intended by the statute to be protected.


If  the  elements  above  are  met,  violation  of  a  statute  is  negligence  per  se,  meaning  that  the  elements  of  duty  and  breach  are  established.  Therefore,  the  defendant  cannot  argue  she  acted  reasonably  or  did  not  have a duty. However, the plaintiff still must prove causation and damages, and defenses to negligence apply.


The  following  are  excuses  for  violating  a  statute:  (i)  The  violation  is  reasonable  due  to  the  defendant’s  incapacity;  (ii)  The  defendant  is  confronted  with  an  emergency  not  due  to  his  own  misconduct; (iii) Compliance  with  the  statute  would  cause  more  danger  than  violation  (e.g.,  the  defendant  drives  onto  wrong side of road to avoid hitting children who dart into his path); or (iv) Compliance would be beyond defendant’s control. This applies if a statute codifies a duty for the benefit of the defendant (e.g., a blind pedestrian crosses against the lights and is a defendant in the resulting action).


Analysis: Here,  the  traffic  law  clearly  specifies  that  cars  cannot  block  the  crosswalk  for  pedestrians. The injury suffered by the pedestrian – being hit by a car while having to walk outside of the crosswalk to get around the truck – is exactly the type of injury that the statute contemplated and sought to protect against.  The truck driver has no excuse for stopping in the crosswalk under the facts given.  Thus, the truck driver’s violation of the law can be considered a breach of duty (i.e., negligence per se).


(D) is correct because the law is intended to protect pedestrians crossing the street.


(A) is  incorrect because  though  the  car  is  also  a  cause  of  the  injury,  this  will not absolve  the  truck  driver from liability.


(B) is  incorrect because  at  most  the  pedestrian  might  be  found  to  be  partially  negligent  which  will affect the apportionment of damages in a comparative negligence jurisdiction (remember that the default rule on the MBE is pure comparative negligence).  However, defendant will not be relieved of liability.


(C) is  incorrect because  violation  of  a  statute  does  not  lead  to  strict  liability;  the  elements  of  negligence per se must be applied to the facts to determine whether the plaintiff is part of the protected class and whether the injury that occurred is of the type that the statute intended to prevent.