127 F.2d 160 (D.C. Cir. 1942), 7874, Hiscox v. Jackson

Docket Nº7874.
Citation127 F.2d 160
Case DateMarch 16, 1942
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

Page 160

127 F.2d 160 (D.C. Cir. 1942)




No. 7874.

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia.

March 16, 1942

Mr. Douglas A. Clark, with whom Mr. Norman E. Sill, both of Washington, D.C., was on the brief, for appellant.

Mr. Leon M. Shinberg, with whom Messrs. M. Phillip Katz and Philip Shinberg, all of Washington, D.C., were on the brief, for appellee.

Before STEPHENS, VINSON, and RUTLEDGE, Associate Justices.

VINSON, Associate Justice.

Plaintiff (appellant) brought this action in the Municipal Court for personal injuries and property damage growing out of an automobile accident. The defendant (appellee) admits the ownership of the automobile involved, a taxicab. At the close of all the evidence, the court, after motion, directed a verdict for defendant upon the grounds that (1) defendant's corroborated testimony, that the cab was being operated without his consent, was uncontradicted and that (2) plaintiff's evidence identifying defendant as the operator of the cab at the time of the accident was insufficient.

The Financial Responsibility Act for the District provides:

'Whenever any motor vehicle, * * * shall be operated * * * by an person other than the owner, with the consent of the owner, express or implied, the operator thereof shall, in case of accident, be deemed to be the agent of the owner of such motor vehicle, and the proof of the ownership of said motor vehicle shall be

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prima facie evidence that such person operated said motor vehicle with the consent of the owner. ' 1

Under this Act, with proof that a defendant owned the automobile involved and with no evidence on behalf of the defendant, a plaintiff who has otherwise established liability is entitled to a directed verdict. Instead, in this case, there has been a directed verdict for defendant. To pass from a directed verdict for plaintiff, through the area of jury questions, to a directed verdict for defendant, requires very strong, compelling evidence on behalf of defendant. It requires evidence which destroys all inferences and presumptions supporting plaintiff and which raises no doubts against defendant. Here, we believe that defendant's case is not so strong and plaintiff's so weak as to make a directed verdict for defendant proper.

In Rosenberg v. Murray 2 this court said that the statutory 'presumption continues until there is credible evidence to the contrary, and ceases when there is uncontradicted proof that the automobile was not at the time being used with the owner's permission. ' 3 The dissent, apparently, had no serious quarrel with this statement of law in the abstract, but stated that the effect of the holding was to make the jury accept defendant's denial, whereas the denial was, on the facts, open to question by some reasonable men. The Municipal Court, in the instant case, concluded that defendant's...

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