On December 14, 1930, Cohen (plaintiff) and her sister were riding as guests in a car driven by Petty (defendant). While driving Petty leaned over to his wife, who was also in the car, and told her he felt sick. Petty immediately thereafter fainted and his hands came off the steering wheel. Subsequently, the car ran off the road and Cohen was permanently injured. At the time of the accident Petty was in good health and had never fainted before. On the day of the accident Petty had a late breakfast, no lunch, and did not feel badly until the moment before he fainted. Cohen sued Petty for negligence. At the trial the judge found in favor of Petty finding that Cohen failed to show any actionable negligence by Petty that caused the accident. Cohen appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia.