In a recent victory for our personal injury division, the North Carolina Court of Appeals reversed the judgment for the Defendant in In Isak v. Williams, Case No. COA20-205. The case arises out of a two-car collision in Johnston County. Mr. Isak was traveling through a four-way intersection where he had the right of way, with no stop sign, and the defendant had a stop sign. The Defendant hit black ice, ran the stop sign, and hit Mr. Isak’s vehicle.
At trial, the Defendant admitted that he was aware of icy road conditions but claimed that hitting ice on the roadway was a sudden emergency. Over the plaintiff’s objection, the trial court instructed the jury on the doctrine of sudden emergency. The jury returned a verdict finding that the Defendant was not negligent.
Attorneys David Larson and Sara Willingham appealed the judgment, arguing that the trial court erred in instructing the jury on the doctrine of sudden emergency because the Defendant admitted that he knew it had snowed the night before, there was snow on the ground and ice in places on the road. The Court of Appeals agreed, holding that the trial court abused its discretion when it gave the sudden emergency instruction because “the patch of black ice Defendant hit was not a sudden and unforeseeable change.” The Court also held that the erroneous instruction affected Mr. Isak’s substantial right, and therefore, he is entitled to a new trial.