This Week's Personal Injury Case from the NC Court of Appeals

The court issued an unpublished opinion about a pedestrian-vehicle auto accident in Hill v. Thompson this week. In the case, the 15-year-old plaintiff crossed a highway near her home, not at a crosswalk, and was struck by defendants' vehicle. Defendants argued that plaintiff could not recover at all because she was contributorily negligent (partially at fault) for crossing the street without paying attention. The court agreed that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent, under the rule that "If the road is straight, visibility unobstructed, the weather clear. . . a plaintiff's failure to see and avoid defendant's vehicle will consistently be deemed contributory negligence as a matter of law."

The court disagreed, however, that defendants were entitled to summary judgment because of the last clear chance doctrine. Under the doctrine, even if the plainitff's negligence puts her in a dangerous position, the defendant can still be liable if he has a clear chance to and unreasonably fails to avoid colliding with the plaitniff. Here, the driver saw the plaintiff near the road as he started down the hill, but didn't start applying his brakes until the plaintiff was in the highway. The court concluded that a jury should therefore decide if the last clear chance doctrine applied.