Zeni v. Anderson

Supreme Court of Michigan, 1976.

397 Mich. 117, 243 N.W.2d 270.

Prosser, pp. 220-223


Facts: The plaintiff was walking in a roadway facing away from traffic on a snowy day when the sidewalk was impassible.  The defendant hit her.  The plaintiff sued, but the defendant claimed that the plaintiff’s conduct constituted contributory negligence because it was a violation of statute to fail to use the sidewalk or to walk in the street facing towards traffic.  The jury found for the plaintiff but the verdict was reversed on appeal.  The plaintiff appealed in turn.


Issue: Was the jury right in finding the plaintiff negligent?


Rule: Out of three possible rules, this court chooses the following: Violation of an applicable statute only makes a prima facie case for negligence that may be rebutted if it can be shown that the violation is excusable.


Analysis: The court finds that the statute that is relevant to the current case gives the jury a clear guideline for determining whether the plaintiff was negligent and whether such negligence contributed to the plaintiff’s injury.  The court concludes that the jury was correctly and adequately instructed.


Conclusion: The court reverses the decision of the appellate court and affirms the jury verdict.


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