CACI No. 452. Sudden Emergency

Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions (2023 edition)

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452.Sudden Emergency
[Name of plaintiff/defendant] claims that [he/she/nonbinary pronoun] was
not negligent because [he/she/nonbinary pronoun] acted with reasonable
care in an emergency situation. [Name of plaintiff/defendant] was not
negligent if [he/she/nonbinary pronoun] 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
“Under the ‘sudden emergency’ or ‘imminent peril’ doctrine, ‘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.’ ‘A party will be denied the benefit of the
doctrine . . . where that party’s negligence causes or contributes to the creation
of the perilous situation.’” (Abdulkadhim v. Wu (2020) 53 Cal.App.5th 298,
301-302 [266 Cal.Rptr.3d 636], internal citations omitted.)
“The doctrine of imminent peril is available to either plaintiff or defendant, or, in
a proper case, to both.” (Smith v. Johe (1957) 154 Cal.App.2d 508, 511 [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].)
“The doctrine of imminent peril is properly applied only in cases where an
unexpected physical danger is presented so suddenly as to deprive the driver of
his power of using reasonable judgment. [Citations.] A party will be denied the
benefit of the doctrine of imminent peril where that party’s negligence causes or
contributes to the creation of the perilous situation. [Citations.]” (Shiver v.
Laramee (2018) 24 Cal.App.5th 395, 399 [234 Cal.Rptr.3d 256].)
‘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].)
“An emergency or peril under the sudden emergency or imminent peril doctrine
is a set of facts presented to the person alleged to have been negligent. It is that
actors behavior that the doctrine excuses. It is irrelevant for purposes of the
sudden emergency doctrine whether [defendant’s] lane change created a
dangerous situation for [plaintiff] or anyone else; the only relevant emergency is
the one [defendant] faced.” (Abdulkadhim, supra, 53 Cal.App.5th at p. 302,
internal citations omitted, original italics.)
“The doctrine of imminent peril applies not only when a person perceives danger
to himself, but also when he perceives an imminent 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 (11th ed. 2017) Torts, §§ 1439, 1449-1451
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

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