Mistakes Do Not Equal Negligence in Minnegren v. Nozar
While a defendant’s admissions of “bad judgment”, making a “mistake”, along with a finding of speeding may appear to be detrimental to a defendant’s motor vehicle accident case, they were not fatal in Minnegren v. Nozar, (Cal. Ct. App. 2016) 208 Cal.Rptr.3d 655.
Running late to his college class, Defendant Joshua Nozar was quickly trying to find a parking space. He “rolled fast” through a stop sign and then “shot” out into the intersection according to eyewitnesses. When Mr. Nozar proceeded into the intersection, Plaintiff’s Sassa Minnegren’s vehicle hit him. At the scene, Mr. Nozar was overheard repeatedly apologizing to Ms. Minnegren. In court, Mr. Nozar admitted to seeing Ms. Minnegren’s vehicle prior to entering the intersection but he thought that her vehicle was far enough away for him to get through the intersection safely. During cross-examination, Mr. Nozar admitted that he did his best to make a judgment call but “it was … wrong” and that he thought he would be able to clear the intersection but had “made a mistake.”
Despite these facts, the jury returned a defense verdict in favor of Mr. Nozar. Ms. Minnegren appealed under the theory that Mr. Nozar’s admission of fault established negligence, thereby requiring the jury to find for Ms. Minnegren. The Appellate Court disagreed. It noted that reasonable care is a question of fact for the jury and that substantial evidence existed for the jury’s verdict. The Court dismissed Ms. Minnegren’s assertion that this established negligence and the verdict in favor of Mr. Nozar was upheld.
This case is a reminder that an admitted mistake does not necessarily rise to a finding of negligence and that how a party gives “good admissions” in testimony at trial can significantly influence the jury. Thus, bad judgment is not fatal to a personal injury case, so long as some judgment was present.
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