Court of Appeals Approves of “Emergency Doctrine” Charge in Brittany Lahm “Bikini Crash” Lawsuit

Last week the New York Court of Appeals issued a decision in Pelletier v. Lahm. In that tragic case, defendant driver Brittany Lahm lost control of her car when she took her hands off the wheel after a passenger untied her bikini top. The jury found in defendant’s favor, after the court instructed it on the “emergency doctrine”. Last year, the Appellate Division, Second Department held that doing so was proper, since there was “a reasonable view of the evidence that [defendant Lahm’s] conduct was the product of a ‘sudden and unexpected circumstance'”.

In a short decision dated October 16, 2014, the New York Court of Appeals affirmed the Appellate Division, agreeing that “[i]t was for the jury to find whether [defendant driver] was faced with a sudden and unforeseen emergency not of her own making and, if so, whether her response to the situation was that of a reasonably prudent person'”.

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