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Ferrell v. Baxter

Supreme Court of Alaska
484 P.2d 250 (1971)


In February 1966, an automobile driven by Joan Ferrell (defendant) collided with a Mack truck driven by Melvin Graves (defendant) during snowy conditions on a road that was 12 miles south of Fairbanks, Alaska. Opal Baxter (plaintiff) was a passenger in Ferrell’s car and was injured in the collision. Baxter sued both Ferrell and Graves for damages. At trial, Ferrell and Graves both offered evidence that the negligence of the other driver led to the collision. Ferrell claimed that Graves was over the centerline and that Ferrell was driving at a reasonable speed, while Graves claimed that Graves was within his own lane at the time of the accident and that Ferrell was driving too fast in the center of the road. Both Ferrell and Graves offered expert-witness testimony. The trial court issued an instruction to the jury that directed the jury to find Ferrell and Graves negligent if (1) they violated one of several specific Alaskan traffic regulations and (2) the violation of the regulation caused Baxter’s injuries. The traffic regulations required drivers to stay within their own lanes, absent special circumstances, and to refrain from driving at unreasonable speeds based on the conditions at the time. The jury found Ferrell to be negligent and awarded Baxter $25,000 in damages. Ferrell appealed, arguing that the jury instruction was invalid.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Connor, J.)

Concurrence/Dissent (Rabinowitz, J.)

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