A New York appeals court has ruled that a trial judge was correct when he instructed a jury in a wrongful death action that the fact that the deceased pulled the string on the driver’s bikini top and caused it to fall, which in turn distracted her and resulted in a crash that killed the deceased could have constituted an “emergency” under the law that partially exonerated the woman driver.
The deceased and the driver, who were both 19 at the time, were driving home from a day at the beach when the deceased started “strange behavior” such as sticking his feet in the driver’s face and opened an umbrella in the car. When he untied the string on her bikini top and caused it to fall, exposing her breasts, she let go of the steering wheel. The car veered off the road and crashed, killing the passenger. His family then sued for wrongful death based on her “negligent driving.”
The judge’s instruction said that it was up to the jury to decide whether the falling bikini top constituted an emergency that relieved the driver of the duty of care ordinarily imposed on drivers. As a result of this instruction the jury found the driver not responsible and awarded no damages to the deceased’s family.