October 27, 2013

Breunig v. American Family Ins. Co. | Case Brief | 45 Wis.2d 536, 173 N.W.2d 619. (1970) - Supreme Court of Wisconsin

Facts: The plaintiff's truck was involved in a collision with the defendant's vehicle which was driving on the wrong side of the road.  The plaintiff was injured.  The defendant saw a white light on the back of a car and followed it for three or four blocks.  The defendant could not remember anything except landing in the field and awaking in the hospital.

Procedural History: The jury found for the plaintiff and the defendant appealed.

Issue: Is a person with a known or suspected insane condition liable for negligence if the person causes an accident while subject to an insane delusion?

Holding: Yes

Rationale: Prior to the accident the defendant had believed she had a special relationship with God and would be the one chosen to survive in the event that the world came to an end.  The defendant further believed that God would take over all aspects of her life including the driving of her car.  These findings lead to the conclusion that the defendant had prior indications that conditions for insanity existed and she is therefore liable for any accidents caused while subjected to insane delusions.

Disposition: Judgement in favor of the plaintiff is affirmed.

Interesting Dicta: "Where one of two innocent persons must suffer a loss it should be borne by the one who occasioned it;"

Cases involving the liability of insane persons has rested traditionally on whether there existed prior knowledge of the affliction.