Washington County District Court File No. 82-CV-10-6492
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Crippen, Judge*fn1
Affirmed in part and reversed in part
Considered and decided by Johnson, Chief Judge; Kirk, Judge; and Crippen, Judge.
In the context of a defendant's summary judgment motion in a negligence case, evidence that the defendant fell asleep while driving after proceeding for only a short time may require that a jury determine whether the aggregate of facts known by the driver shows that a jury could reasonably determine that the sleep was foreseeable.
Appellants dispute a summary judgment that respondent's loss of consciousness while driving was unforeseeable as a matter of law, no matter whether it was shown that the event involved a seizure or that it was an experience of falling asleep. Because the matters known to respondent before he lost consciousness gave him knowledge of the likeliness of falling asleep sufficient at least to require a jury to weigh the issue of foreseeability, we reverse in part. We affirm insofar as the district court concluded that respondent could not foresee that he might suffer a seizure.
On November 11, 2009, appellant Craig Kellogg was driving eastbound on Valley Creek Road in Woodbury around 4:30 p.m. when a vehicle driven westbound by respondent Scott Finnegan jumped the median and struck the front driver's side of appellant's vehicle. Respondent's vehicle then ricocheted from the collision and traveled forward until coming to a stop upon hitting a tree. Appellant saw respondent fall over toward the passenger's side just before the vehicle stopped. The parties agree that respondent lost consciousness before the accident, but they dispute whether respondent lost control of his vehicle due to falling asleep or suffering a seizure.
When medical personnel arrived, respondent appeared confused but had regained consciousness, and he told a paramedic that he had fallen asleep. Witnesses on the scene told medical personnel that it appeared respondent had suffered a seizure. After transportation of respondent to an area hospital, his hospital discharge papers included a diagnosis for a "seizure causing motor vehicle accident."
There is no dispute that respondent had never had a seizure prior to the collision. Since the 2009 collision, respondent has been diagnosed with brain atrophy, has had two seizures, and has been instructed by a doctor not to drive. Respondent had also previously fallen asleep while driving in 2006; in that instance, respondent had been driving for 12 hours before he fell asleep.
Following the 2009 Woodbury collision, appellant and his wife brought suit for injuries and loss of services, alleging that respondent negligently caused the crash. Appellants' suit is premised on the claim that respondent's loss of consciousness was foreseeable.
First, in his work as a registered nurse, respondent had previously displayed noticeable coordination issues, shaking hands, and a clumsy gait. Respondent could not keep his hands steady and had trouble skillfully inserting an I.V. Appellants presented evidence that respondent was aware of these issues and had not sought medical care, and that he ...