Written by attorney Bill Powers

North Carolina "Last Clear Chance"

The issue of last clear chance must be submitted to the jury if the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, will support a reasonable inference of each essential element of the doctrine. Nealy v. Green, 139 N.C.App. 500, 504, 534 S.E.2d 240, 243 (2000).  

Failure to submit the issue of last clear chance, when proper, is reversible error that mandates a new trial.  Id. In Exum v. Boyles, 272 N.C. 567, 576, 158 S.E.2d 845, 853 (1968), our Supreme Court addressed a plaintiff's entitlement to an instruction on last clear chance and wrote:

[T]o bring into play the doctrine of last clear chance, there must be proof that after the plaintiff had, by his own negligence, gotten into a position of helpless peril . the defendant discovered the plaintiff's helpless peril . or, being under a duty to do so, should have, and, thereafter, the defendant, having the means and time to avoid the injury, negligently failed to do so.

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