Margie Hilen (plaintiff) decided to ride with Keith Hays (defendant) even though he was too intoxicated to drive safely. Hays rear-ended another vehicle, overturning his own and injuring Hilen. In the ensuing negligence action, the trial court directed a verdict that Hays was negligent but submitted to the jury the question of whether Hilen also acted negligently by riding with a drunk driver. The trial court instructed the jury that contributory negligence completely barred any recovery, which accurately reflected Kentucky law at the time, and refused to give a comparative-negligence instruction requested by Hilen. The jury found Hilen contributorily negligent, completely barring her recovery. The appellate court affirmed, prompting Hilen to appeal to the Kentucky Supreme Court.