Breunig v. American Family Insurance Co.
Supreme Court of WI - 1970
- D was insurance company for Veith. Veith was driving her car on the wrong side of the highway when she collided with and injured P.
- Evidence showed that Veith saw a light on the back of a car and thought God was directing her car. She followed it.
- Veith saw P's car and thought that she could fly if she ran into it faster (like Batman!). Testimony was offered that she suffered a schizophrenic reaction.
- P sued D for damages in negligence.
- Trial court found for P.
- WI Supreme Court affirmed, found for P.
- Is insanity a defense to negligent conduct in all situations?
- Insanity is only a defense to the reasonable person standard in negligence if the D had no warning and knowledge of her insanity.
- Veith suffered an insane delusion at the time of the accident.
- The effect of the illness must be such as to affect the person's ability to understand and appreciate the duty of ordinary care.
- Also, there must be an absence of notice or forewarning that the person may suddenly be subject to such insanity.
- Veith, however, had prior warning that would reasonably lead her to believe that she would have hallucinations.
- Thus, she should be held to the ordinary standard of care. The jury could conclude that she could foresee this because of testimony about her religious beliefs.
- The mental disease must be sudden like a heart attack or sudden seizure.