Plaintiff Who Turned Left on Red 50% at Fault as Matter of Law

In Hall v. Owens, No. W2014-02214-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Nov. 20, 2015), the Tennessee Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment for defendant where plaintiff ran a red light and turned in front of defendant’s truck. As plaintiff approached an intersection, he had a red arrow for turning left. Defendant was approaching the same intersection driving a tractor-trailer truck, and defendant had a green light. Despite the red arrow, plaintiff proceeded into the intersection and turned left, at which time he was hit by defendant’s truck and severely injured.


Plaintiff sued defendant and his employer for negligence, asserting that defendant’s negligence was the “direct and proximate cause of the collision.” Defendant moved for summary judgment, relying heavily on the footage of the accident from two traffic cameras. Based on the footage, two experts for defendant testified that defendant was driving approximately 52 miles per hour in the 55 mile per hour zone. Further, it was undisputed that defendant had a green light and plaintiff had a red arrow. It was also undisputed that defendant’s truck was well-illuminated and visible.


In response to the motion for summary judgment, plaintiff submitted expert testimony from an accident reconstructionist asserting that defendant was traveling 60-65 miles per hour, and that defendant had “six to nine seconds of clear visibility of [plaintiff’s] car.” In light of the evidence, the trial court granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment, finding that “no reasonable minds could find anything other than the fact that [plaintiff’s] actions in driving that morning of the accident constituted negligence, and negligence per se, and that his actions were the proximate cause of the accident, at least to the extent of 50% of fault.” The trial court further found that plaintiff’s expert’s testimony regarding defendant’s speed was “fundamentally flawed” in that it failed to consider several relevant factors.

Plaintiff appealed the summary judgment, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Court held:


Even taking all of [plaintiff’s] evidence as true and viewing it in the light most favorable to them, the [plaintiffs] have failed to establish a genuine issue of material fact. The [plaintiffs] admit that the traffic signal facing [plaintiff] was red at the time he entered the intersection…admit that [plaintiff] proceeded to make an illegal left turn across the path of oncoming traffic…admit that the traffic signal facing [defendant] was green…admit that [defendant’s] truck was well-illuminated and there was nothing blocking [plaintiff’s] view of it.


In light of this evidence, the Court held that even taking as true the assertion that defendant was driving between 60 and 65 miles per hour and that he had some time to brake, “no reasonable juror could conclude that [defendant] was at least 50% at fault for the accident in light of the undisputed facts that [plaintiff] ran a red light to turn left across oncoming traffic….”


Tough case.  Would the result be any different if the defendant had been going 80 miles per hour?