Negligence and the “Sudden Loss of Consciousness” Defense in Florida Car Accident Cases – Marcum v. Hayward

In Marcum v. Hayward, Florida’s Second District Court of Appeals considers the “sudden loss of consciousness” defense, a legal doctrine that absolves a negligent person from liability under certain limited circumstances, including in some car accident cases.

Ms. Marcum was driving a company vehicle owned by Artistic Pools when the car was involved in an accident. Marcum, who was an assistant manager for the company, later said that she felt like she blacked out behind the wheel momentarily prior to the crash, woke up briefly and then blacked out again. She said she woke up a second time after the crash as paramedics were removing her from the vehicle.

Mr. Heninger, an Artistic Pools employee who was riding in the vehicle at the time of the accident, also said that Marcum told him that she felt like she had just blacked out prior to the accident. Marcum said she didn’t feel well and asked where they were going and then suddenly became unconscious, according to Heninger. He claimed that he reached down quickly to try to push the car’s brake pad with his hands when the accident occurred but was unable to do so because he was wearing a seatbelt.

Ms. Hayward was stopped at a red light when she saw Marcum’s car coming toward her and noticed that it didn’t look like it was going to stop. She braced herself for the impact and then got out of the car after it was rear-ended by Marcum’s vehicle. Hayward said that she observed Marcum having a seizure and helped reposition Marcum so that she wouldn’t swallow her own tongue. Hayward later sued Marcum, Artistic Pools and the company’s insurer for injuries suffered in the accident.

Dismissing the claims, the Court said Marcum couldn’t be held responsible for the crash because it was caused by her unforeseeable loss of consciousness. “It is well settled that negligence is not chargeable against the operator of a motor vehicle who, while driving, suffers a sudden loss of consciousness from an unforeseen cause,” the Court explained, citing its 1965 decision in Tropical Exterminators v. Murray. In order to establish this defense, a person sued for negligence must show that he or she suffered a loss of consciousness or capacity before the alleged negligent behavior and that the loss of consciousness was sudden and neither foreseen nor foreseeable.

Here, the Court said Marcum proved the defense by showing that she suffered a cryptogenic seizure just before the accident, which caused her to lose consciousness and control of the vehicle. The seizure was sudden and neither foreseen nor foreseeable as Marcum had never suffered a seizure before the incident. Indeed, a doctor who testified on Marcum’s behalf said that there was no way for her to anticipate that the seizure was oncoming.

This is just one example of a number of possible legal defenses that may arise in a Florida car accident case and which a person should consider before filing suit. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, contact the South Florida car accident attorneys at Anidjar & Levine. We represent clients throughout the region, including in Pompano Beach, Hialeah and Coral Springs. Call us toll-free at 800-747-3733 or fill out and submit an online Contact Us form to schedule a free consultation.

Related blog posts:

Proving Injury in Florida Car Accident Cases – Pack v. Geico

Single Car Accidents and Third-Party Liability – O’Malley v. Ranger Construction Industries

Causation Requirement in Florida Car Accident Lawsuits – Hernandez v. Gonzalez