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People v. Traughber

Michigan Supreme Court
439 N.W.2d 231 (1989)


David Traughber (defendant), a truck driver, was driving on a dark road. Traughber saw an oncoming vehicle approaching in the opposite lane. As he continued driving, Traughber suddenly noticed a large metal sign lying in front of him on the road. In an attempt to avoid the sign, Traughber swerved into the left lane. The oncoming vehicle, not realizing Traughber was already returning to his own lane, swerved to avoid Traughber. The two vehicles collided head-on, killing a passenger in the oncoming vehicle. Traughber was given numerous breathalyzer tests, resulting in readings of a .05 and .04 blood alcohol content. The State of Michigan (plaintiff) charged Traughber with negligent homicide. Before issuing his decision, the trial judge explained the standard of ordinary negligence, defining it as a failure to do what an ordinary, sensible person would have done under the same circumstances. The trial judge further stated that, given Traughber’s trucking experience, Traughber should have been able to make a better judgment call to avoid the sign on the right side of the road instead of creating an emergency by swerving into the oncoming lane. For these reasons, the trial judge convicted Traughber of negligent homicide. Traughber appealed, and the court of appeals affirmed. Traughber appealed again, contending that, in considering Traughber’s trucking experience, the trial judge inappropriately held Traughber to a standard higher than that of a reasonable, ordinary person.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Riley, C.J.)

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