Samson v. Nahulu – Pedestrian Accident Victim Gets Second Chance in Court

A youth and her parents will get another chance to secure a favorable finding in their personal injury lawsuit, stemming from an Independence Day pedestrian accident back in 2005. The girl had been crossing a street (she claims in a crosswalk) from in front of a stopped bus when she was struck by defendant’s sport utility vehicle, causing severe injuries.crosswalk1

After a jury decided the case, Samson v. Nahulu, in defendant’s favor, plaintiff’s appealed. The appeals court affirmed jury’s verdict, but the Hawaii Supreme Court vacated, remanding for either a new trial or a judgment notwithstanding verdict. Justices ruled the trial court erred in exclusion of certain evidence (including speed of defendant vehicle and evidence of crosswalk markings), jury instructions that were prejudicial and doling out jury instructions that focused more on the pedestrian’s obligation to obey all traffic laws rather than the driver’s duty to avoid collisions.

There was much conflicting testimony in this case from a number of witnesses regarding key facts, including whether the minor was in the crosswalk, how fast defendant was traveling, whether pedestrian used due caution in looking both ways. But the court wrongly decided a number of motions and requests in a way that prejudiced the plaintiff.

In North Carolina, as in Hawaii, pedestrians do have an obligation to use reasonable care. Our Asheville pedestrian accident attorneys know this means keeping a timely lookout for approaching traffic, look before starting across a road, exercise reasonable care for his or her own safety and walk facing traffic on roads where there is no sidewalk.

But as the North Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT) notes, pedestrians also have a number of important rights. Those include the right-of-way on any highway within a business or residence district with any clearly-marked crossing or any regular pedestrian crossing along lateral boundary lines of the sidewalk at the end of the block.

However, in cases where pedestrians are crossing at any point other than a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, he or she must yield the right-of-way to all vehicles on the road.

In this case, jurors were instructed on several points, including: That a pedestrian has a duty to obey all traffic laws and that a pedestrian who crosses outside the roadway of a crosswalk is required to yield the right of way to all vehicles in the road. Plaintiffs objected to the latter instruction because it failed to explain that a pedestrian in an unmarked crosswalk does in fact have the right-of-way. Plaintiffs objected to the former instruction because it outlined the duty of pedestrian, while failing to mention that motorists too have a responsibility to avoid collisions. There was also an instruction that indicated motorists have a right to assume all other persons will obey the law and aren’t required to keep a lookout for others who violate the law. Plaintiff objected because it failed to outline key exceptions to this provision.

Trial court overruled all these objections, and also excluded evidence regarding driver’s speed and the testimony of a bus driver who indicated the crash occurred while pedestrian was in the sidewalk.

On appeal, the state supreme court justices found these decisions were all erroneous and affected the outcome of the trial.

Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Samson v. Nahulu, Dec. 4, 2015, Hawaii Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Improper Passing Plays Role in Fatal North Carolina Accident, Dec. 9, 2015, Asheville Pedestrian Accident Lawyer Blog

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