Negligent Traffic Director

One who assumes to act, even though gratuitously, may thereby become subject to the duty of acting carefully, if he acts at all. Restatement of Torts, § 323.

In September, a man was bicycling when a dump truck pulled along side him, but did not completely pass. The two rode like that for “an uncomfortable amount of time.” Ahead, the dump truck driver saw a driver who had been driving the opposite direction and was stopped, waiting to turn left. Cars were lining up behind the driver wanting to turn left and were beginning to pass him on his right.

The dump truck stopped and motioned for the driver to make his turn, which he did, and collided with the bicyclist who had not stopped along with the dump truck. The bicyclist sued both drivers for his injuries.

At the District Court, the Judge ruled that the dump truck driver was “no more responsible for the bicyclist than he was for any of the hundreds of other drivers on the road,” and that there is “no authority for the bicyclist’s proposition that a driver who courteously yields his right-of-way to a left-turning driver is responsible for determining if all other lanes of traffic are clear of pedestrians or bicycles or whatever may be there.” The bicyclist appealed this decision to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court re-iterated its adoption of the restatement of torts section quoted above. By making the decision to act, the dump truck driver assumed the responsibility of making sure that his action was reasonably prudent. The Court ruled that it was reasonably foreseeable harm could come to those traveling behind the dump truck from the driver’s decision to waive for the driver turning left to turn.

In deciding to direct traffic, the dump truck driver assumed the responsibility of directing traffic safely. The jury should be allowed to decide whether the truck driver breached that duty and whether that breach caused the bycyclist’s injuries and damages.

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