Negligence – Duty of Care – Duration of Status of “Driver” for Puropses of Guest Statute

Plaintiffs were guests riding in defendant’s automobile. Defendant stepped out of the vehicle leaving the motor running, the hand brake unset, and the automatic shift in neutral position. A departing passenger brushed against the gear lever and started the vehicle which struck a wall causing injuries to the plaintiffs. On appeal from judgment adverse to the plaintiffs, held, reversed. Defendant may be held liable for ordinary negligence. California’s “guest” statute limiting guests to recovery for injuries sustained by the driver’s willful misconduct does not apply in this case, since the defendant ceased to be a driver the moment he stepped out of the vehicle. Panopulos v. Maderis, (Cal. App. 1956) 293 P. (2d) 121.