Varcoe v. Lee
180 Cal. 338, 181 P. 223 (1919)
- Nichols was driving Lee’s car, with Lee inside, when it ran over and killed Varcoe’s child. Varcoe sued for wrongful death.
- At trial, the judge instructed the jury that if they found that Nichols was going faster than 15 mph in a business district, then that was enough to find him negligent.
- The Trial Court found Lee guilty of negligence and gave Varcoe a judgment of $5k. Lee appealed.
- Lee argued that the location of the accident was not a ‘business district’. Therefore it was improper for the judge to just assume that it was.
- The speed limit for areas that aren’t business districts was higher.
- This case was decided before the advent of street signs and posted speed limits.
- The Appellate Court affirmed.
- The Appellate Court found that there was no dispute that the area of the accident was a business district.
- That corner had a drug store, a barber shop, a saloon, and a haberdashery!
- The Appellate Court found that the Trial Judge was entitled to take judicial notice of the character of one of the most important and best known street of the city.
- The Appellate Court found that there were three requisites to determine if a fact can be assumed by the court:
- The matter must be of common and general knowledge.
- The matter must be established and authoritatively settled, not doubtful or uncertain.
- The matter must be within the limits of the jurisdiction of the court.
- Btw, the term judicial notice refers to a judicial short cut where the court assumes a fact and does away with the necessity of the litigants to prove the fact.
- The case was decided under the common law. Now it would be covered by FRE 201.