California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) (2017)

452. Sudden Emergency

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452.Sudden Emergency
[Name of plaintiff/defendant] claims that [he/she] was not negligent
because [he/she] acted with reasonable care in an emergency situation.
[Name of plaintiff/defendant] was not negligent if [he/she] proves all of
the following:
1. That there was a sudden and unexpected emergency situation in
which someone was in actual or apparent danger of immediate
2. That [name of plaintiff/defendant] did not cause the emergency;
3. That [name of plaintiff/defendant] acted as a reasonably careful
person would have acted in similar circumstances, even if it
appears later that a different course of action would have been
New September 2003
Directions for Use
The instruction should not be given unless at least two courses of action are
available to the party after the danger is perceived. (Anderson v. Latimer (1985)
166 Cal.App.3d 667, 675 [212 Cal.Rptr. 544].)
Additional instructions should be given if there are alternate theories of negligence.
Sources and Authority
• The doctrine of imminent peril may be used by either the plaintiff or the
defendant, or, in a proper case, both. (Smith v. Johe (1957) 154 Cal.App.2d 508,
511–512 [316 P.2d 688].)
• “Whether the conditions for application of the imminent peril doctrine exist is
itself a question of fact to be submitted to the jury.” (Damele v. Mack Trucks,
Inc. (1990) 219 Cal.App.3d 29, 37 [267 Cal.Rptr. 197]; see also Leo v. Dunham
(1953) 41 Cal.2d 712, 715 [264 P.2d 1].)
• “[A] person who, without negligence on his part, is suddenly and unexpectedly
confronted with peril, arising from either the actual presence, or the appearance,
of imminent danger to himself or to others, is not expected nor required to use
the same judgment and prudence that is required of him in the exercise of
ordinary care in calmer and more deliberate moments.” (Leo, supra, 41 Cal.2d
at p. 714.)
• The “doctrine is properly applied only in cases where an unexpected physical
danger is so suddenly presented as to deprive the injured party [or the
defendant] of his power of using reasonable judgment.” (Sadoian v. Modesto
Refrigerating Co. (1958) 157 Cal.App.2d 266, 274 [320 P.2d 583].) The exigent
nature of the circumstances effectively lowers the standard of care: “ ‘The test
is whether the actor took one of the courses of action which a standard man in
that emergency might have taken, and such a course is not negligent even
though it led to an injury which might have been prevented by adopting an
alternative course of action.’ [Citation.]” (Schultz v. Mathias (1970) 3
Cal.App.3d 904, 912–913 [83 Cal.Rptr. 888].)
• The doctrine of imminent peril does not apply to a person whose conduct
causes or contributes to the imminent peril. (Pittman v. Boiven (1967) 249
Cal.App.2d 207, 216 [57 Cal.Rptr. 319].)
• The doctrine applies when a person perceives danger to himself or herself as
well as when he or she perceives a danger to others. (Damele, supra, 219
Cal.App.3d at p. 36.)
• “[T]he mere appearance of an imminent peril to others—not an actual imminent
peril—is all that is required.” (Damele, supra, 219 Cal.App.3d at p. 37.)
Secondary Sources
6 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Torts, §§ 1282, 1292–1294
California Tort Guide (Cont.Ed.Bar 3d ed.) § 4.7
1 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 1, Negligence: Duty and Breach, §§ 1.03, 1.11,
1.30 (Matthew Bender)
33 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 380, Negligence (Matthew
16 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 165, Negligence, § 165.250 (Matthew