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Farmer-Lanctot v. Shand

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

August 14, 2018


          Argued April 9, 2018

         Procedural History

         Action to recover damages for personal injuries sustained by the plaintiff allegedly caused by the defendant's negligent operation of a motor vehicle, and for other relief, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford and tried to a jury before Dubay, J.; verdict and judgment for the defendant, from which the plaintiff appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          Juri E. Taalman, with whom, on the brief, were Taylor Equi and Timothy Brignole, for the appellant (plaintiff).

          Jude Francois, for the appellee (defendant).

          Prescott, Elgo and Blawie, Js.


          ELGO, J.

         In this negligence action, the plaintiff, Ellen Farmer-Lanctot, appeals from the judgment rendered on a general verdict in favor of the defendant, Matthew Shand. On appeal, the plaintiff claims that the trial court improperly denied the plaintiff's request for a jury charge on (1) the sudden emergency doctrine, (2) the standard of care for a pedestrian in a roadway, and (3) the defendant's duty to yield to pedestrians when making a right-hand turn. We disagree and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         On the basis of the evidence presented at trial, the jury reasonably could have found the following facts. On December 31, 2014, the plaintiff and her husband attended a New Year's Eve gathering hosted by Lisa Salazar and Mike Kraman at their residencein the Wynding Hills Road residential subdivision in East Granby (Wynding Hills). Attendees of the gathering also included Carol Lindberg and five others. At approximately 9 p.m. the plaintiff and other attendees of the gathering left the residence and headed out to take a hike through the woods up to a cliff. The group was equipped with headlamps and lights for the hike.

         On their way back from the cliff, the group walked down Tunxis Avenue toward Wynding Hills to return to the Salazar and Kraman residence. The group walked into the exit road of the subdivision and began ascending a hill. A grassy center island of the road separated the entrance road and the exit road of the subdivision. At some point prior to walking into the exit of Wynding Hills, the group shut off their lights. At approximately 10:30 p.m., a car, driven by the defendant, was traveling downhill in Wynding Hills toward the exit. At the time, the plaintiff was in the middle of the exit road with Carol Lindberg and was walking up the road. The car traveled around a curve at the bottom of the hill onto the Wynding Hills exit road, spotted the group walking in the road, and stopped prior to reaching the group. Upon seeing the headlights of the defendant's car approaching, the plaintiff jumped out of the road and into the grassy center island of the road approximately twenty-five feet from the curve. The plaintiff testified that she jumped out of the road and over the front corner of the defendant's vehicle because she thought that she was going to be hit by the defendant's vehicle. Consequently, the plaintiff suffered a broken arm.

         The plaintiff subsequently commenced the present action, claiming that she suffered personal injuries, economic damages, and noneconomic damages of pain and suffering proximately caused by the defendant's negligence. In his answer, the defendant denied that he was negligent in the operation of his vehicle. In addition, as a special defense, the defendant alleged that the plaintiff's own negligence was the proximate cause of her injuries. The case was tried to a jury, but no interrogatories were submitted to it. Following trial, the jury returned a general verdict in favor of the defendant and the court rendered judgment accordingly. This appeal followed.

         Before addressing the merits of the plaintiff's claim, we first determine whether the general verdict rule applies and precludes our review.[1] ‘‘Under the general verdict rule, if a jury renders a general verdict for one party, and no party requests interrogatories, an appellate court will presume that the jury found every issue in favor of the prevailing party. . . . Thus, in a case in which the general verdict rule operates, if any ground for the verdict is proper, the verdict must stand; only if every ground is improper does the verdict fall. . . . The rule rests on the policy of the conservation of judicial resources, at both the appellate and trial levels. . . .

         ‘‘On the appellate level, the rule relieves an appellate court from the necessity of adjudicating claims of error that may not arise from the actual source of the jury verdict that is under appellate review. In a typical general verdict rule case, the record is silent regarding whether the jury verdict resulted from the issue that the appellant seeks to have adjudicated. Declining in such a case to afford appellate scrutiny of the appellant's claims is consistent with the general principle of appellate jurisprudence that it is the appellant's responsibility to provide a record upon which reversible error may be predicated. . . .

         ‘‘In the trial court, the rule relieves the judicial system from the necessity of affording a second trial if the result of the first trial potentially did not depend upon the trial errors claimed by the appellant. Thus, unless an appellant can provide a record to indicate that the result the appellant wishes to reverse derives from the trial errors claimed, rather than from the other, ...

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