California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) (2017)

701. Definition of Right-of-Way

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701.Definition of Right-of-Way
When the law requires a [driver/pedestrian] to “yield the right-of-way”
to [another/a] [vehicle/pedestrian], this means that the
[driver/pedestrian] must let the [other] [vehicle/pedestrian] go first.
Even if someone has the right-of-way, that person must use reasonable
care to avoid an accident.
New September 2003
Directions for Use
This instruction should be given following a reading of the appropriate Vehicle
Code section.
If the case involves a statutory right-of-way, the jury could also be given
instructions on negligence per se, if applicable.
Sources and Authority
• “Right of Way” Defined. Vehicle Code section 525.
• Intersection Right of Way. Vehicle Code section 21800.
• Left Turn Right of Way. Vehicle Code section 21801.
• Approaching Entrance to Intersection. Vehicle Code section 21802.
• Intersection Controlled by Yield Right-of-Way Sign. Vehicle Code section
21803.
• Entry onto Highway. Vehicle Code section 21804.
• Equestrian Crossings. Vehicle Code section 21805.
• Authorized Emergency Vehicles. Vehicle Code section 21806.
• “Right of way rules have been described as simply establishing ‘a practical
basis for necessary courtesy on the highway.’ ” (Eagar v. McDonnell Douglas
Corp. (1973) 32 Cal.App.3d 116, 122 [107 Cal.Rptr. 819].)
• “[A] driver entering a public highway from private property who collides with a
vehicle traveling on the public road is not necessarily liable for a violation of
[Vehicle Code] section 21804. Rather, the driver violates this section only if he
or she fails to act as a ‘ “reasonably prudent and cautious [person].” ’ Whether
the driver failed to so act is a question of fact for the trier of fact to decide.”
(Spriesterbach v. Holland (2013) 215 Cal.App.4th 255, 266 [155 Cal.Rptr.3d
306], internal citation omitted.)
• “Of course, even if [defendant] had the right of way, he had a duty to exercise
reasonable care to avoid an accident, and the jury was so instructed.” (Eagar,
supra, 32 Cal.App.3d. at p. 123, fn. 3, internal citation omitted.)
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• “When, as here, each motorist has acted reasonably and the pedestrian has
failed to exercise due care for her own safety, the law of this state does not
permit the technical violation of the pedestrian’s right of way statute to impose
negligence on the motorists as a matter of law. The statute creates a
preferential, but not absolute, right in favor of the pedestrian who is still under
a duty to exercise ordinary care.” (Byrne v. City and County of San Francisco
(1980) 113 Cal.App.3d 731, 742 [170 Cal.Rptr. 302].)
• “ ‘Even where a right of way is given by statute, if conditions so require it to
avoid injury to others, the right of way must be yielded.’ ” (Bove v. Beckman
(1965) 236 Cal.App.2d 555, 563 [46 Cal.Rptr. 164], internal citation omitted.)
• “Although such a driver may have the right-of-way, he is not absolved of the
duty to exercise ordinary care; may not proceed blindly in disregard of an
obvious danger; and must be watchful of the direction in which danger is most
likely to be apprehended.” (Malone v. Perryman (1964) 226 Cal.App.2d 227,
234 [37 Cal.Rptr. 864].)
Secondary Sources
6 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Torts, §§ 879, 880
California Tort Guide (Cont.Ed.Bar 3d ed.) § 4.15
2 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 20, Motor Vehicles, § 20.68 (Matthew Bender)
8 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 82, Automobiles: Causes of
Action, §§ 82.10, 82.68 (Matthew Bender)
2 California Civil Practice: Torts § 25:26 (Thomson Reuters)
MOTOR VEHICLES AND HIGHWAY SAFETY CACI No. 701
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