D owns a business that supplies fruits and vegetables to local restaurants. One morning, as D is driving a delivery truck, the truck drifts over the road’s center line and into the opposite lane of oncoming traffic. At the same time, in the opposite lane, P is driving straight towards D, so P swerves to avoid colliding with the truck. This causes P to lose control of her car, skid off the road, and crash into a tree. D does not notice the accident, so she returns to the correct lane and continues on her way.
A motorist who witnessed the accident, M, immediately stops and rushes to P’s car. P is still in the driver’s seat, mumbling incoherently and bleeding from several cuts to her head. M opens the car door and helps P to get out. At this point, P is able to stand and walk, but only by leaning heavily on M. M walks P toward his car, intending to take P to a hospital.
When M and P reach the side of the road, M realizes that he will be late for an important meeting if he takes P to the hospital. Mumbling a word of apology, M gently lowers P to the ground on the shoulder of the road. He then gets back in his car and drives away. While driving, M calls 911 and reports P’s accident.
Meanwhile, still severely disoriented from the accident, P crawls from the shoulder into the nearest lane of traffic. A cabbie accidentally drives over P’s leg, causing extensive injuries.
The state’s department of transportation recently promulgated a valid and binding regulation governing the weight of commercial trucks. That regulation provides as follows:
Operating Weights: WHEREAS operating commercial vehicles at weights greater than their rated capacity increases wear on roads and bridges, and increases the risk of highway accidents, which often arise when drivers lose control of overweight vehicles, it is hereby ORDERED that no person shall operate a commercial vehicle at a gross vehicle weight greater than the manufacturer’s stated maximum. Each violation shall be subject to fines and penalties as provided in this regulation.
The gross weight is defined as the combined weight of the vehicle, its passengers, and its cargo. The manufacturer has rated D’s truck for a maximum gross weight of 20,000 pounds, but at the time of the accident, D’s truck was overloaded to a gross weight of 22,000 pounds. D thus violated the weight regulation when the accident occurred.
P sues D and M for personal injury. Before trial, P files a motion in limine, asking the judge to rule that D’s violation of the weight regulation is negligence per se. Applicable state law recognizes the doctrine of negligence per se, but there is no precedent addressing whether the doctrine applies to the weight regulation at issue.
- Has M breached any duty toward P? Explain.
- How should the judge rule on the issue of negligence per se? Explain.