The following section from Day on Torts Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law​​​ is out of date and should not be used. It remains a part of this site for historical purposes only. An updated version of the book is available by subscription at (Additional information below.)

§49.7 Duty of Pedestrians

The Case : De Rossett v. Malone, 239 S.W.2d 366 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1950).

The Basic Facts: Plaintiff filed suit for injuries incurred when she attempted to cross a street in Memphis at a point between intersections and she was struck by a vehicle driven by the defendant.

The Bottom Line:

  • "In the absence of a restrictive statute or ordinance, a pedestrian has a legal right to use any portion of the street or highway and to cross it at any point either directly or diagonally. No more is required than that he exercise ordinary care for his own safety, which may include keeping a reasonable lookout for passing vehicles in order to avoid injury therefrom, for the nature and extent of the precautions required by ordinary care, necessarily depend upon the particular circumstances of each case. The pedestrian's failure to keep a lookout may constitute negligence per se, although it will not necessarily do so under all circumstances. [5 Am. Jur. 761, Sec. 454]; note, 164 A.L.R. 103; cf. Hodge v. Hamilton, [293 S.W. 752]. This, because, as said, there is no imperative and invariable requirement as to looking and listening, as in the case at railroad crossings. [61 C.J.S., Motor Vehicles], §§ 470, 471, pp. 43, 60; [25 Am. Jur. 523-524]." 239 S.W.2d at 373.
  • "If a pedestrian looks for approaching automobiles before attempting to cross a street or highway, he is presumed in law to have seen what he should have seen had his observance been careful and attentive. He cannot justify himself by saying that he looked and did not see the approaching car that injured him, when, if he had looked, he must have seen the car. Unless there is some circumstance or condition to excuse him, his failure to see the car constitutes negligence as a matter of law. See also Reid v. Owens, [93 P.2d 680], 126 A.L.R. 55." Id. at 374.

Other Sources of Note: There are several statutes which address the responsibilities of pedestrians. They may be found at Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 55-8-111, 55-8-133, 55-8-134, 55-8-137, 55-8-138, 55-8-139, 55-8-180.

After an accident, many injury victims and their families want more information on the accident and their legal rights. Consequently, many of them have found their way to these pages. While we are happy you are here, please understand Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law was written to be a quick, invaluable reference for Tennessee tort lawyers. While the book provides the leading case for more than 300 tort law subjects and thousands of related case citations, it is not a substitute for personalized legal advice from a qualified lawyer.

Rather than researching these legal issues alone, we urge you to contact one of our award-winning lawyers who can sit down with you, review your case, answer your questions and clearly explain your rights and your options in a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced attorneys handle all personal injury and wrongful death cases on a contingency basis, so we only get paid if we win. If for any reason you are unable to come to our office, we will gladly come to you.

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The foregoing is an excerpt from Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law, published by John A. Day, Civil Trial Specialist, Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, recipient of Best Lawyers in America recognition, Martindale-Hubbell AV® Preeminent™ rated attorney, and Top 100 Tennessee Mid-South Super Lawyers designee. Read John’s full bio here.

The book is now available electronically by subscription at The new format allows us to keep the book current as new opinions are released. BirdDog Law also has John's Tennessee Law of Civil Trial and Compendium of Tennessee Tort Reform Statutes available by subscription, as well as multiple free resources to help Tennessee lawyers serve their clients

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