Breunig v. American Family Ins. Co.

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Breunig v. American Family Ins. Co.
Court Supreme Court of Wisconsin
Citation 45 Wis.2d 536
173 N.W.2d 619
Date decided 1970

Facts

Plaintiff received personal injuries when his truck was struck by an automobile driven by Mrs. Erma Veith, represented as the defendant by her insurance company. Evidence established that Mrs. Veith was subject to an insane delusion at the time of the accident which directly affected her ability to operate the car in an ordinary and prudent manner. She saw a white light on the car behind her, continued to follow this white light, and believed that God had taken over the steering of her car.

Procedural History

Action for personal injuries with a jury decision for the plaintiff. Defendant appealed.

Issues

Could the effect of mental illness or mental hallucination be so strong as to remove the liability from someone in a negligence case?

Holding

No, not in this case.

Judgment

Affirmed.

Reasons

The effect of the mental illness must be so strong as to affect the persons ability to understand and appreciate a duty which rests upon him to act with ordinary care, and in addition there must be an absence or notice of forewarning to the person that he may suddenly be subject to such a type of insanity.

Rule

Policy of holding an insane person liable is 1) Where one of two innocent persons suffers a loss it should be borne by the one who occasioned it; 2) to induce those interested in the estate of the insane person to restrain and control him; and 3) the fear that an insanity defense will lead to false claims of insanity to avoid liability.

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