Pipher v. Parsell

930 A.2d 890 (2007)

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Pipher v. Parsell

Delaware Supreme Court
930 A.2d 890 (2007)

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Facts

Kristyn Pipher (plaintiff) and Johnene Beisel were passengers in the truck of Johnathan Parsell (defendant). All three 16-year-olds were sitting on the front seat, with Parsell driving. While traveling at 55 miles per hour, Beisel surprised Parsell by unexpectedly grabbing the steering wheel, causing the truck to veer onto the shoulder of the road. Parsell righted the truck but did not otherwise respond to Beisel’s conduct. Approximately 30 seconds later, Beisel again grabbed the wheel, causing the truck to leave the road and strike a tree. Pipher was injured and sued Parsell for negligence. At trial, Parsell acknowledged that he could have warned Beisel not to touch the wheel, asked her to move into the backseat, or threatened to remove her from the vehicle. However, the trial judge reasoned that a reasonable driver would not expect a passenger to grab the wheel a second time. Thus, the court held that, as a matter of law, Parsell had no duty to do anything in response to Beisel’s initially grabbing the wheel. The trial court further held that Parsell’s failure to admonish Beisel could not be considered the proximate cause of Pipher’s injuries. Accordingly, the trial court ruled against Pipher, finding Parsell was not negligent. Pipher appealed to the Delaware Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Holland, J.)

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