California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

710. Duties of Care for Pedestrians and Drivers

The duty to use reasonable care does not require the same amount of caution from drivers and pedestrians. While both drivers and pedestrians must be aware that motor vehicles can cause serious injuries, drivers must use more care than pedestrians.

New September 2003

Sources and Authority

  • Driving is not considered a highly dangerous activity, though it may require a specific instruction: “Driving a motor vehicle may be sufficiently dangerous to warrant special instructions, but it is not so hazardous that it always requires ‘extreme caution.’ ” (Menchaca v. Helms Bakeries, Inc. (1968) 68 Cal.2d 535, 544 [67 Cal.Rptr. 775, 439 P.2d 903], internal citations omitted.)
  • Failure to give an instruction upon request on the relative duties of the driver and the pedestrian has been held to be error. (Cucinella v. Weston Biscuit Co. (1954) 42 Cal.2d 71, 81 [265 P.2d 513] [error not prejudicial in this case].)
  • In Dawson v. Lalanne (1937) 22 Cal.App.2d 314, 315 [70 P.2d 1002], the court held it was error to refuse to instruct the jury that “the plaintiff and the defendant were both chargeable only with the exercise of ordinary care, but a greater amount of such care was required of the defendant at the time of the accident in question by reason of the fact that he was driving and operating an automobile, which is an instrumentality capable of inflicting serious and often fatal injuries upon others using the highway.”
  • The purpose of instructions concerning the relative standards of care for pedestrians and drivers is “to inform the jury that the elements of action constituting conduct which qualifies as ordinary care are those commensurable with the responsibility involved and depend upon the character of the instrumentality being used or the nature of the act which is being performed, all as related to the surrounding circumstances.” (Cucinella, supra, 42 Cal.2d at p. 80.)

Secondary Sources

6 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Torts, §§ 881, 882, 885

California Tort Guide (Cont.Ed.Bar 3d ed.) §§ 4.72–4.73

2 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 20, Motor Vehicles, §§ 20.10–20.12 (Matthew Bender)

8 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 82, Automobiles: Causes of Action, § 82.10 (Matthew Bender)