Bartlett v. Bryant

Decision Date17 June 1968
Docket NumberNo. 22093,22093
PartiesC. B. BARTLETT and Lucille Bartlett, Plaintiffs in Error, v. Wallace R. BRYANT, Defendant in Error.
CourtColorado Supreme Court

George A. Hinshaw, Aurora, for plaintiffs in error.

Bernard v. Berardini, Littleton, for defendant in error.

GROVES, Justice.

This action involves a motor vehicle accident which occurred in the City and County of Denver on July 28, 1964, wherein plaintiffs in error were plaintiffs and defendant in error was defendant. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendant negligently drove his pickup with camper into the rear of an automobile driven by the plaintiff Mrs. Bartlett, thereby causing personal injuries and property damage. The trial court entered judgment on the jury verdict which was in favor of the defendant.

At and prior to the time of the accident, it had been raining in the area and the streets were wet. Mrs. Bartlett halted her vehicle at the rear of a line of cars stopped for a traffic signal. Defendant approached from the rear at an estimated speed approximating thirty miles per hour. Well in advance he observed the red signal and the line of stopped vehicles. When at a distance of about forty or fifty feet behind Mrs. Bartlett's car he slowed his pickup by shifting to a lower gear. He attempted to apply his brakes twenty feet from the Bartlett vehicle, but the brakes failed to check the speed of the pickup sufficiently. He swerved in an attempt to avoid collision, but the pickup struck the rear of the stationary Bartlett automobile. There was conflicting testimony as to whether defendant's vehicle left skid marks on the pavement immediately prior to the collision.

The defendant testified that the collision was caused by the unexpected failure of his pickup's brakes and that he had no prior indication of any defect or malfunction in the braking system. Raymond Albrandt, an automobile shop foreman, testified as an expert witness that water within the brake drum acts as a lubricant on the brake lining, such that the affected vehicle could lose all braking power. Albrandt further stated that water might enter the drum if the vehicle were driven through deep water, or if a single splash happened to strike the inside of the vehicle's brake drum. There would be no advance warning to the driver of a loss in braking capacity.

As the plaintiffs contend, a prima facie case of negligence had been made out when it was established that the defendant struck the rear of the Bartletts' stationary vehicle, without any fault on Mrs. Bartlett's part. Bryant thereupon had the burden of showing that the collision was not caused by his negligence. Eddy v. McAninch, 141 Colo. 223, 347 P.2d 499; Iacino v. Brown, 121 Colo. 450, 217 P.2d 266. The plaintiffs insist that defendant failed as a matter of law to establish freedom from negligence and that, therefore, the trial court erred in submitting the issue of liability to the jury.

The evidence referred to above tended to show that the collision was caused by the unexpected failure of defendant's brakes, which in turn derived from the presence of rain water within the vehicle's brake drum. Also as mentioned, defendant testified that he had no notice of diminished braking power prior to the accident. The jury could determine that the accident resulted from a sudden brake failure beyond defendant's control. If so, defendant cannot be held responsible for injuries resulting from brake failure. Cudney v. Moore, Colo., 428 P.2d 81; Daigle v. Prather, 152 Colo. 115, 380 P.2d 670.

While the plaintiffs argue otherwise, it cannot be...

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8 cases
  • Young v. Clark, 90SC354
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court
    • July 9, 1991
    ...instruction. Daigle, 152 Colo. at 119, 380 P.2d at 672; Cudney, 163 Colo. at 32, 428 P.2d at 82. See also Bartlett v. Bryant, 166 Colo. 113, 115-16, 442 P.2d 425, 426-27 (1968); Tracy v. Graf, 37 Colo. App. 323, 327, 550 P.2d 886, 890 (1976), rev'd on other grounds, 194 Colo. 1, 568 P.2d 46......
  • Bettner v. Boring
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court
    • November 28, 1988
    ...the road or on the shoulder, were in relatively close proximity, and were facing the same direction. See, e.g., Bartlett v. Bryant, 166 Colo. 113, 115, 442 P.2d 425, 426 (1968) (plaintiff's vehicle was halted at the end of a line of cars, stopped for a traffic light, when the car behind her......
  • Carter v. Unit Rig & Equipment Co.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Tenth Circuit
    • April 18, 1990 the trier of fact if there is evidence from which it could be reasonably found that an emergency existed"); Bartlett v. Bryant, 166 Colo. 113, 442 P.2d 425, 427 (1968); Cudney v. Moore, 163 Colo. 30, 428 P.2d 81, 83 (1967). See also, Daigle v. Prather, 152 Colo. 115, 380 P.2d 670, 672 (1......
  • Davis v. Cline, 11
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court
    • January 31, 1972 this Court in Denver & B.P.R.T. Co. v. Dwyer, 20 Colo. 132, 36 P. 1106, and most recently was considered in Bartlett v. Bryant, 166 Colo. 113, 442 P.2d 425. The rationale of the doctrine is that in an emergency there is no time for cool reflective deliberation during which alternative co......
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