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Goepfert v. Filler

South Dakota Supreme Court
563 N.W.2d 140 (1997)


Facts

While celebrating South Dakota State University’s homecoming, Chris Stethem (defendant) drove several friends, including Michael Goepfert (plaintiff), to a bar in downtown Brookings. Goepfert sat in the passenger’s seat of Stethem’s car. As they approached an intersection near the bar, Stethem slowed the car to approximately 10 to 15 miles per hour because the traffic light was red. Some of Stethem’s passengers wanted to be dropped off in front of the bar, rather than walk to the bar from wherever he would find parking. Stethem told his passengers that if they wanted to get out, they could get out, but he did not stop the car. The traffic light turned green. Just as Stethem began to accelerate to drive through the intersection, Goepfert opened his door and jumped from the still-moving car. Goepfert flipped over backwards, hit his head, and fell unconscious. He eventually died from intracranial hemorrhaging. Goepfert’s parents brought a wrongful-death action against Stethem and others, alleging that Stethem was negligent. Stethem argued that he was not liable for Goepfert’s injuries because Goepfert assumed the risk of his injuries when he jumped from a moving car. Stethem moved for summary judgment. The trial court granted Stethem’s motion. Goepfert appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Konenkamp, J.)

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