CACI No. 730. Emergency Vehicle Exemption (Veh. Code, § 21055)

Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions (2020 edition)

Download PDF
730.Emergency Vehicle Exemption (Veh. Code, § 21055)
[Name of defendant] claims that [name of public employee] was not
required to comply with Vehicle Code section [insert section number]
because [he/she/nonbinary pronoun] was operating an authorized
emergency vehicle and was responding to an emergency at the time of
the accident.
To establish that [name of public employee] was not required to comply
with section [insert section number], [name of defendant] must prove all of
the following:
1. That [name of public employee] was operating an authorized
emergency vehicle;
2. That [name of public employee] was responding to an emergency
situation at the time of the accident; and
3. That [name of public employee] sounded a siren when reasonably
necessary and displayed front red warning lights.
If you decide that [name of defendant] proved all of these things, then you
cannot find it negligent for a violation of section [insert section number].
However, even if you decide that [name of defendant] proved all of these
things, you may find it negligent if [name of public employee] failed to
operate [his/her/nonbinary pronoun] vehicle with reasonable care, taking
into account the emergency situation.
New September 2003
Directions for Use
For a definition of “emergency,” see CACI No. 731, Definition of “Emergency.”
Sources and Authority
• Authorized Emergency Vehicle Exemption. Vehicle Code section 21055.
• “Authorized Emergency Vehicle” Defined. Vehicle Code section 165.
• Authorized Emergency Vehicle: Public Employee Immunity. Vehicle Code
section 17004.
• “The purpose of the statute is to provide a ‘clear and speedy pathway’ for these
municipal vehicles on their flights to emergencies in which the entire public are
necessarily concerned.” (Peerless Laundry Services v. City of Los Angeles (1952)
109 Cal.App.2d 703, 707 [241 P.2d 269].)
• Vehicle Code section 21056 provides: “Section 21055 does not relieve the driver
of a vehicle from the duty to drive with due regard for the safety of all persons
using the highway, nor protect him from the consequences of an arbitrary
568
Copyright Judicial Council of California
exercise of the privileges granted in that section.”
• “The effect of Vehicle Code sections 21055 and 21056 is: where the driver of an
authorized emergency vehicle is engaged in a specified emergency function he
may violate certain rules of the road, such as speed and right of way laws, if he
activates his red light and where necessary his siren in order to alert other users
of the road to the situation. In such circumstances the driver may not be held to
be negligent solely upon the violation of specified rules of the road, but may be
held to be negligent if he fails to exercise due regard for the safety of others
under the circumstances. Where the driver of an emergency vehicle fails to
activate his red light, and where necessary his siren, he is not exempt from the
rules of the road even though he may be engaged in a proper emergency
function, and negligence may be based upon the violation of the rules of the
road.” (City of Sacramento v. Superior Court (1982) 131 Cal.App.3d 395,
402-403 [182 Cal.Rptr. 443], internal citations omitted.)
• “Notwithstanding [Vehicle Code section 17004], a public entity is liable for
injuries proximately caused by negligent acts or omissions in the operation of
any motor vehicle by an employee of the public entity, acting within the scope
of his or her employment.” (City of San Jose v. Superior Court (1985) 166
Cal.App.3d 695, 698 [212 Cal.Rptr. 661], internal citations omitted.)
• “If the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle is responding to an emergency
call and gives the prescribed warnings by red light and siren, a charge of
negligence against him may not be predicated on his violation of the designated
Vehicle Code sections; but if he does not give the warnings, the contrary is true;
and in the event the charged negligence is premised on conduct without the
scope of the exemption a common-law standard of care is applicable.” (Grant v.
Petronella (1975) 50 Cal.App.3d 281, 286 [123 Cal.Rptr. 399], internal citations
omitted.)
• “Where the driver of an emergency vehicle responding to an emergency call
does not give the warnings prescribed by section 21055, the legislative warning
policy expressed in that section dictates the conclusion [that] the common-law
standard of care governing his conduct does not include a consideration of the
emergency circumstances attendant upon his response to an emergency call.”
(Grant, supra, 50 Cal.App.3d at p. 289, footnote omitted.)
• The exemption created by section 21055 is an affirmative defense, and the
defendant must prove compliance with the conditions. (Washington v. City and
County of San Francisco (1954) 123 Cal.App.2d 235, 242 [266 P.2d 828].)
• “In short the statute exempts the employer of such a driver from liability for
negligence attributable to his failure to comply with specified statutory
provisions, but it does not in any manner purport to exempt the employer from
liability due to negligence attributable to the driver’s failure to maintain that
standard of care imposed by the common law.” (Torres v. City of Los Angeles
(1962) 58 Cal.2d 35, 47 [22 Cal.Rptr. 866, 372 P.2d 906].)
Secondary Sources
MOTOR VEHICLES AND HIGHWAY SAFETY CACI No. 730
569
Copyright Judicial Council of California
5 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Torts, §§ 297, 331-335
2 Government Tort Liability Practice (Cont.Ed.Bar 4th ed.) §§ 11.140-11.144
2 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 20, Motor Vehicles, § 20.55 (Matthew Bender)
20 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 246, Emergency Vehicles
(Matthew Bender)
CACI No. 730 MOTOR VEHICLES AND HIGHWAY SAFETY
570
Copyright Judicial Council of California

© Judicial Council of California.