Yourtee v. Hubbard

In Yourtee v. Hubbard, 196 W. Va. 683, 690, 474 S.E.2d 613, 620 (1996), the appellee and defendant below parked his vehicle, unlocked and with the ignition key available, in front of his video rental store which was located in a strip mall. The plaintiff's/appellant's decedent assisted in stealing the vehicle and was a passenger in the vehicle when it crashed into a brick wall following a high speed chase in an attempt to elude capture. The appellant's decedent was killed in the crash and the appellant sued the owner of the vehicle among others. The jury awarded damages against the defendants and found the owner of the vehicle to be 10% at fault. The trial court granted the motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict on behalf of the vehicle's owner on the grounds that the theft of the vehicle and subsequent negligent acts of the decedent and his friends constituted an intervening efficient cause which broke the chain of causation and was the proximate cause of the decedent's death. The Court affirmed the trial court for the reason that the appellee owed no duty to a person participating in the theft of a motor vehicle. The Court also found, however, that "the trial court had sufficient authority to conclude that the theft of the car and the subsequent acts of the plaintiff's decedent and his friends were intervening efficient acts which were not foreseeable by the defendant; thereby breaking the chain of causation which originally began with the defendant's negligent act and relieving the defendant of any liability." 196 W. Va. at 691, 474 S.E.2d at 621.