785 P.2d 977 (Kan. 1990), 62579, Hammig v. Ford

Docket Nº:62579.
Citation:785 P.2d 977, 246 Kan. 70
Party Name:Bonnie HAMMIG, Appellant, v. Thomas FORD, Appellee.
Attorney:[6] Joseph R. Ebbert, of Niewald, Waldeck, Norris & Brown, of Overland Park, argued the cause, and Stephen S. Brown and Catherine R. Hutson, of the same firm, were with him on the brief for the appellant. Jerome V. Bales, of Wallace, Saunders, Austin, Brown & Enochs, Chartered, of Overland Park, ...
Case Date:January 19, 1990
Court:Supreme Court of Kansas
 
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Page 977

785 P.2d 977 (Kan. 1990)

246 Kan. 70

Bonnie HAMMIG, Appellant,

v.

Thomas FORD, Appellee.

No. 62579.

Supreme Court of Kansas

January 19, 1990

Page 978

Syllabus by the Court

Under the circumstances of this case, the trial court did not err in granting summary judgment upon a finding that there was no causal connection as a matter of law between the defendant's actions and the plaintiff's injury, where: (1) the defendant pursued a hit-and-run driver in order to obtain his vehicle license plate number; (2) the hit-and-run driver, although cognizant of the pursuit, testified that this awareness affected neither his speed nor the length of time he drove while fleeing from the accident scene; (3) the defendant slowed, pulled over, and stopped upon discerning the license number of the hit-and-run vehicle; and (4) the defendant was no longer in pursuit when the hit-and-run driver sped through an intersection, colliding with an automobile in which plaintiff's husband was a passenger and was fatally injured.

Joseph R. Ebbert, of Niewald, Waldeck, Norris & Brown, argued the cause, and Stephen S. Brown and Catherine R. Hutson, Overland Park, were with him on the brief for appellant.

Jerome V. Bales, of Wallace, Saunders, Austin, Brown & Enochs, Chartered, argued

Page 979

the cause, and Kenton M. Hall, Overland Park, was with him on the briefs for appellee.

MILLER, Chief Justice:

This is a wrongful death case brought by Bonnie Hammig against Thomas Ford. The District Court of Johnson County granted summary judgment in favor of defendant Ford. The propriety of that order is the controlling issue before us.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Thomas Ford was driving north on Metcalf Avenue in Overland Park, Kansas, on November 21, 1985. James Brooks was driving south on the same thoroughfare. Brooks, in making a left turn onto 107th Street, collided with the Ford vehicle. Brooks fled the scene by proceeding east on 107th. As soon as it was apparent [246 Kan. 71] to Ford that Brooks was not going to stop, he followed Brooks in order to obtain his license number.

Shortly east of Metcalf, 107th Street makes an S curve; thereafter, it is straight all the way to Lamar, one-half mile east of Metcalf. The two cars sped east on 107th, with speeds reaching 60 miles per hour, although the speed limit was 30 or 35 miles per hour. Neither Brooks nor Ford remembers any other traffic on 107th. Brooks testified by deposition that, after about a block, he became aware that Ford was following him, but that was not why he was speeding; he was determined to leave the scene and go to Missouri. He did not want to be arrested for driving without a license.

Even though Brooks had a head start, Ford was able to catch up to him and to read his license number. Ford then pulled over to the side of the street, about a half block west of Lamar, to write down the number. Brooks, however, did not stop or slow down. He proceeded to speed into the four-way stop intersection at Lamar, and in doing so collided with another vehicle in which Bret Hammig was a passenger. Hammig died of injuries sustained in the crash.

This action is brought by Hammig's widow and sole heir, Bonnie Hammig, individually and as administratrix of his estate. Suit was commenced against Brooks; Brooks' parents, who were the owners of the car he was driving; and Ford. Summary judgment was entered in favor of Brooks' mother. Later, plaintiff's claims against Brooks and his father were settled, and an order was issued dismissing those claims with prejudice. The orders relating to the claims against Brooks and his parents are final, and no appeal has been taken from them.

DISTRICT COURT'S DISPOSITION

Defendant Ford moved for summary judgment, and the trial court agreed, finding

"that there are no material issues of fact remaining, and that reasonable minds cannot differ as to the fact that the actions or inactions of defendant Ford did not in any way cause or contribute to cause the collision between the Brooks and Hammig vehicles. Therefore, the Court finds that the defendant Ford is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."

Plaintiff appealed.

[246 Kan. 72] COURT OF APPEALS' DISPOSITION

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