Baker-Smith v. SkolnickAnnotate this Case
After a flying mattress made plaintiff swerve on a freeway and crash at high speed, she filed suit against the company that failed to secure the mattress.
The Court of Appeal held that the trial court misinstructed the jury regarding the excuse instruction, CACI 420. Because it was equally probable the jury found for the company on an erroneous excuse theory as it was that jurors found the company had no mattress, the court could not say that this error was not harmless. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded. The court noted that, on retrial, the trial court must give neither CACI 420 nor any other excuse instruction based on these facts. Furthermore, it would also be appropriate to include a question on a special verdict form, if one is used again, to isolate the jury's determination about whether the company did or did not break the secure-the-cargo law.