Roman v. Estate of Gobbo
99 Ohio St.3d 260, 791 N.E.2d 422 (2003)
- Gobbo had heart surgery. The doctors did not advise Gobbo to stop driving, because he was at risk for a sudden heart attack.
- Gobbo drove, had a heart attack, died, and his car ran into two other cars, killing and injuring some of the occupants (including Gobbo’s wife).
- Roman sued Gobbo’s Estate for negligence.
- At Trial, the jury was instructed on the sudden-medical-emergency defense.
- The sudden-medical-emergency defense would be an excuse for negligence if Gobbo’s Estate could prove that Gobbo’s heart attack was not reasonably foreseeable.
- See Lehman v. Haynam (133 N.E. 2d 97 (1956)).
- The Trial Court found for Gobbo’s Estate. Roman appealed.
- Even though Gobbo was at fault, the jury found that the heart attack was not foreseeable. This is a question of fact that the Appellate Court can’t overrule.
- The Appellate Court affirmed.
- The Appellate Court found that in order to be found negligent, a defendant must have acted unreasonably. When there is no unreasonable conduct, there is no fault.
- To find a defendant liable for the effects of unforeseen medical emergencies would be to impose strict liability, which is inappropriate.
- Roman unsuccessfully argued that drivers who operate a vehicle with knowledge of medical condition should bear the risk of injuries caused by that condition.
- Of course, then anyone with an inkling of a possible medical condition would be precluded from using the sudden-medical-emergency defense.
- Note that this rule doesn’t work the other way around for contributory negligence. A blind person can’t be held contributorily negligent for not seeing an obvious hole in the ground and falling in.
- See Shepard v. Gardner Wholesale, Inc. (256 So.2d 877 (1972)).