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3.6-16  Unavoidable Accident

Revised to January 1, 2008

The defendant claims that any injury suffered by the plaintiff was the result of an unusual or unexpected event and was not the result of either party's negligence.  If you find that the alleged injuries and/or losses in question did not result from either the defendant's or the plaintiff's negligence but were caused solely by some other happening, then the defendant is not liable to the plaintiff.


Tomczuk v. Alvarez, 184 Conn. 182, 190-91 (1981); Dinda v. Sirois, 166 Conn. 68, 69-74 (1974); Robinson v. Faulkner, 163 Conn. 365, 370 (1972).  See also Barrese v. DeFillippo, 45 Conn. App. 102 (1997); Annot., 21 A.L.R. 5th 82 (1993); 65 A.L.R. 2d 12 (1959).


This charge should rarely be given.  The Connecticut Supreme Court consistently has disapproved of the use of the unavoidable accident charge.  The charge has been viewed as serving no useful purpose, instead functioning to confuse and mislead the jury.  It has been characterized as nothing more than a denial of negligence by the defendant.  The court has indicated that the instruction is warranted only when the record in the case supports a finding that the negligence of neither party is involved.  Even in such cases, the decision to give the unavoidable accident charge is discretionary, and it is not error to refuse to give such an instruction as long as the jury is charged on the principles of negligence, proximate cause and burden of proof.  See Tomczuk v. Alvarez, supra, 184 Conn. 190-91; Barrese v. DeFillippo, supra, 45 Conn. App. 108-09.

It is noted that numerous other state commissions have recommended against giving an unavoidable accident charge.  See, e.g., Ark. Supreme Court Comm., Arkansas Model Jury Instructions AMI 604 (3rd ed. 1989); Colo. Supreme Court Comm., Colorado Jury Instructions-Civil 9:11 (3rd ed. 1990); Fla. Supreme Court Comm., Florida Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Cases 4.1 (1983); Idaho Pattern Jury Instructions Comm., Idaho Jury Instructions 217 (1982); Ill. Supreme Court Comm., Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions: Civil IPI 12.03 (3rd ed. 1990); Ind. Judges Ass'n, Indiana Pattern Jury Instructions 5.47 (1966); Kan. Judicial Council, Pattern Instructions for Kansas 2d PIK 8.82 (1977); Mich. Supreme Court Comm., Michigan Standard Jury Instructions-Civil SJI2d 13.05 (2d ed. & Supp. 1991); Mo. Supreme Court Comm., Missouri Approved Jury Instructions 1.01 (4th ed. 1991); State Bar Comm., South Dakota Pattern Jury Instructions-Civil 12.01 (1968 & Supp. 1980); Wis. Judicial Conference, Wisconsin Jury Instructions-Civil 1000 (1991).


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