Torts I

Pipher v. Parsell

Supreme Court of Delaware, 2007

Facts:

Pipher, Parsell, and Beisel (another defendant) were traveling in Parsell's pickup, all three in the front seat. They were all sixteen years old. While going 55 MPH, Beisel grabbed the steering wheel, sending them onto the shoulder. Parsell recognized that this was serious and dangerous, but did not think that he would do it agian, so he did nothing is response. Approximately thirty seconds later, Beisel grabbed the steering wheel again, causing the truck to steer off the road, down an embankment, and into a tree. Pipher was injured in the crash.

Procedural History:

The trial judge found in favor of the defendant Parsell, as he had no duty to do anything as it was reasonable to assume it wouldn't happen again. The Superior Court also ruled in favor of defendant as a matter of law.

Issue:

Is a driver responsible for stopping passengers from interfering with his driving?

Plaintiff's Argument:

After Beisel grabbed the wheel once, Parsell was aware of a dangerous situation that could occur again and had a duty to protect his passengers from it.

Defendant's Argument:

Defendant did not expect Beisel to grab his arm again, and therefore shouldn't be liable for her actions.

Rule:

When the actions of a passenger are foreseeably dangerous, the driver has a duty to his passengers and/or the public to prevent harm from occurring as a result.

Reasoning:

Beisel had grabbed Parsell's arm before so it might have been reasonably foreseeable that she might again.

Holding:

Parsell's negligence should have been submitted to the jury. Remanded for further proceedings.

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