Chapman v. Milford Towing & Service, Inc.

2012 WL 3871868 (2012)

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Chapman v. Milford Towing & Service, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
2012 WL 3871868 (2012)

  • Written by Rose VanHofwegen, JD

Facts

John Chapman (plaintiff) pulled his semi over when he experienced mechanical problems and called dispatch for a mechanic. Instead of a mechanic, dispatch sent a tow truck, driven by Johnny Whitaker, who worked for Milford Towing & Service, Inc. (defendants). Chapman said he told Whitaker not to touch the truck until he received approval for a tow. Whitaker said he told Chapman to watch out and get out of the way while he hooked up the truck. Whitaker saw Chapman move to the passenger side of the truck but did not keep track of him after that and began hooking up the tow truck. Meanwhile, Chapman climbed back in the truck cab to retrieve his personal belongings. When Whitaker began to tow the semi, Chapman fell from the cab, suffering serious injuries. In the ensuing lawsuit, three experts presented conflicting testimony as to whether either Chapman or Whitaker met the applicable standard of care. The trial judge refused to give the Ohio jury instruction on independent superseding cause, and instead instructed the jury generally that “There may be more than one proximate cause. . . . [A superseding cause] does not relieve the defendant from liability unless it is shown such other cause would have produced the injury independently of the defendant’s negligence.” The jury found the parties 75/25 percent comparatively negligent and awarded Chapman $2 million, reduced accordingly by 25 percent to $1.5 million. Whitaker and Milford appealed based on the refusal to give the Ohio jury instruction on independent superseding cause.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Stranch, J.)

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