In Moats v. Lienemann, the Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed a district court jury's determination that the automobile collision out of which the plaintiff's negligence action arose was not an "unavoidable accident". An unavoidable accident "has been defined as an inevitable accident, an event or an occurrence which could not have been prevented by any human foresight or ordinary prudence, the result occurring without fault. " The purpose of this casenote is to examine the conflicting considerations that concern the trial court when a defendant attempts to employ the unavoidable accident defense. In numerous jurisdictions, there is an increasing reluctance to use the unavoidable accident instruction because of a belief that the instruction unnecessarily confuses the jury. In what appears to be the majority of jurisdictions, however, trial courts permit use of the unavoidable accident instruction. In these jurisdictions, it is believed the unavoidable accident instruction assists the jury in focusing deliberations and inquiries on the specific factual questions at issue. The use of the instruction in Moats indicates that, despite this trend of abandoning the doctrine, the Nebraska Supreme Court favors utilization of the unavoidable accident instruction when pleadings and evidence properly raise and support the issue of unavoidable accident as a defense to a complaint premised on negligence. The Nebraska Supreme Court's decision in Moats reaffirmed the court's approval of the limited role that the unavoidable accident doctrine plays in negligence litigation.
James S. Mitchell,
Negligence—Defense of Unavoidable Accident: Moats v. Lienemann, 188 Neb. 452, 197 N.W.2d 372 (1972),
52 Neb. L. Rev. 559
Available at: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol52/iss4/6