396 F.2d 721 (5th Cir. 1968), 24063, Hatfield v. Seaboard Air Line Railroad Co.

Docket Nº:24063.
Citation:396 F.2d 721
Party Name:William C. HATFIELD, Appellant, v. SEABOARD AIR LINE RAILROAD COMPANY, Appellee. SEABOARD AIR LINE RAILROAD COMPANY, Appellant, v. William C. HATFIELD, Appellee.
Case Date:June 24, 1968
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Page 721

396 F.2d 721 (5th Cir. 1968)

William C. HATFIELD, Appellant,





William C. HATFIELD, Appellee.

No. 24063.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

June 24, 1968

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George S. Brown, Birmingham, Ala., for appellant.

Drayton T. Scott, Birmingham, Ala., for appellee.

Before BROWN, Chief Judge, SIMPSON, Circuit Judge, and SUTTLE, District Judge.

SUTTLE, District Judge:

This case presents the question of whether a jury verdict finding the appellee-cross-appellant (Seaboard) liable to the appellant-cross-appellee (Hatfield) for injuries sustained by Hatfield as a proximate result of Seaboard's negligence but assessing damages at $1.00 can stand in the face of uncontroverted evidence of substantial physical injury incurred in the automobile accident which gave rise to the law suit. Hatfield contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion for a new trial on the damage issue, where the jury answered all of the special interrogatories submitted with the general verdict in his favor, but assessed a manifestly inadequate amount of damages. Seaboard contends by way of cross-appeal that the trial court erred in denying its motions for directed verdict and judgment notwithstanding the verdict, on the grounds that Seaboard was not negligent as a matter of law and/or Hatfield was contributorily negligent as a matter of law.

The injuries complained of were the result of Hatfield's colliding with a guard rail erected by Seaboard several feet from the paved portion of the highway, at a point where the public highway is overpassed by Seaboard's trestle bridge. By answers to special interrogatories the jury found (1) that the portion of the guard rail with which Hatfield collided was situated on the public highway; (2) that Seaboard was guilty of negligence; (3) that its negligence was the proximate cause of Hatfield's injuries; (4) that Hatfield was not guilty 'of any negligence which contributed in the slightest degree to his injuries'; and (5) that the amount of damages sustained by Hatfield was $1.00. The general verdict was in favor of Hatfield for that amount.

Uncontradicted testimony at the trial tended to show that Hatfield suffered multiple facial injuries, requiring surgery; paresis of the right lateral erectus muscle, causing temporary crossing of his right eye; partial loss of vision in his right eye; marked fragmentation of the superior and lateral walls of the antrum and of the lateral wall of the orbit; fracture of his skull and mandible; and considerable pain and suffering. Undisputed evidence of special damages, without objection to the reasonableness of any hospital or doctor bills, set the

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medical expenses and lost wages at $2,795.75.

Seaboard's cross-appeal is without merit. The trial court's instruction to the jury regarding defendant Seaboard's duty to this plaintiff 1 is a substantially correct statement of the law applicable to this case. 2 If anything it is overly favorable to Seaboard in light of the jury's answer to the first special interrogatory. Seaboard contends, however, that there was insufficient evidence to submit the first interrogatory. While there is some question as to the need for the interrogatory, there was sufficient evidence to warrant the submission of the issue to the jury and to sustain their finding thereon. Likewise with regard to the issue of contributory negligence. The evidence was conflicting...

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