Facts On November 9, 1965, there was a caraccident in Burlington, Vermont involving Samuel Simblest and Joseph Maynard.Simblest was driving a station wagon in a western direction Maynard was drivinga fire engine in a southern direction in response to an emergency. The accidentoccurred on Main Street in the dark at 5:27 pm during a power outage that spannedthe Northeast.
The plaintiff claims that the street lights were still workingat the time he entered the intersection and that he had a green light to proceedwith driving. He further claims that he did not see the emergency vehicle untilafter he was almost through the intersection and that he did not observeflashing lights or a siren. The defendant testified that the siren, flashing lights,headlights, and side lights were all in use at the time of the accident. The defendantsaw the station wagon enter the intersection and swerved to the side to attemptto avoid the collision. The plaintiff, Simblest, filed a lawsuit against thedefendant, Maynard, for damages from the accident. The result from the jury inthat hearing was unfavorable for the defendant, Maynard, who then motioned for judgementnotwithstanding the verdict.
The judge from the district court granted this motion.The plaintiff, Simblest, appealed this decision and brought it to the U.S. Courtof Appeals. After review, the U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’sdecision to grant the defendant’s motion because all the evidence included inthe trial suggested the plaintiff was negligent and the defendant did not havethe last clear chance to prevent the accident from occurring.
Issue The issue in the review of this casewas whether the fire engine was sounding a siren or displaying its red lightsas it approached the intersection. The second issue for this case waswhether the defendant had the last clear chance to avoid the accident. Holding The U.S. Court of Appeals held upthe district court’s decision to grant the defendant’s motion for judgementnotwithstanding the verdict. The U.
S. Court of Appeals also deniedthe plaintiff’s argument that the defendant had the last clear chance to avoid thecrash. Reasoning After reviewing the Vermont Standard,the judges agreed that the plaintiff was guilty of contributory negligence. Thecourt listened to the testimony of multiple individuals who were at theintersection during the time of the accident, and the only person who claims tohave not seen or heard the sirens/lights of the fire engine was the plaintiff.With that being said, it is the law that if an emergency vehicle is travelling withits warning signs on, all other vehicles must pull over and come to a completestop. This law gives the emergency vehicle full right of way, which means thateven though the plaintiff claims he did not see the flashing lights, since allother witnesses did, the plaintiff was legally obligated to be out of the fireengine’s way.
Because the plaintiff was chargedwith contributory negligence, he was able to request to charge last clear chancefor the defendant. This request was denied because in Vermont, this charge indicatesthat the plaintiff did not have enough time to avoid the accident and thatthere was sufficient time for the defendant to be able to prevent it. The judgesdenied this charge because after listening to the testimony of the witnessesand considering the speed at which the fire truck was going, it was impossibleand there was not enough time or space for the defendant to prevent the crash.