Ardis v. Griffin

Decision Date08 February 1962
Docket NumberNo. 17873,17873
Citation239 S.C. 529,123 S.E.2d 876
CourtSouth Carolina Supreme Court
PartiesMary Viola ARDIS, Administratrix of the Estate of Harold Ardis, Appellant, v. Maxie GRIFFIN, Respondent.

Rogers & Riggs, Manning, C. M. Edmunds, Sumter, for appellant.

Lee & Moise, Sumter, for respondent.

LEWIS, Justice.

Plaintiff's intestate, Harold Ardis, was killed while riding as a guest in an automobile driven by the defendant, Maxie Griffin, when the vehicle struck a bridge on a highway in Sumter County, South Carolina. This action was brought by the plaintiff as administratrix of the Estate of Harold Ardis to recover for his alleged wrongful death. During the trial of the case, a verdict was directed by the lower Court in favor of the defendant upon the ground that the evidence conclusive showed that plaintiff's intestate was guilty of contributory recklessness and wilfulness so as to bar recovery in this action. The sole question for determination in this appeal is whether or not the lower Court erred in so doing.

Plaintiff's intestate was a guest passenger in the automobile of the defendant, and this action is governed by Section 46-801 of the 1952 Code of Laws. This section 'restricts liability to a guest to cases where injury has resulted from either intentional or reckless misconduct of the owner or operator of the motor vehicle'. Jackson v. Jackson, 234 S.C. 291, 108 S.E.2d 86.

It is conceded in this appeal that the defendant was driving the automobile in question at the time of the collision and that he was operating it in a reckless manner. Therefore, to bar recovery, the plaintiff's intestate must have been guilty of the same degree of contributory negligence as that of the defendant, that is, contributory recklessness and wilfulness. It is the position of the defendant, sustained by the lower Court, that the only reasonable inference to be drawn from the evidence is that plaintiff's intestate was guilty of contributory recklessness and wilfulness, as a matter of law, in voluntarily and knowingly riding in an automobile driven by the defendant who was intoxicated at the time.

Questions as to the contributory negligence of a guest in an automobile must be determined from the facts of the particular case and are usually for determination by the jury. However, when the evidence admits of but one reasonable inference, it becomes a matter of law for determination by the Court. Augustine v. Christopoulo et al., 196 S.C. 381, 13 S.E.2d 918.

The material testimony is not in dispute. The deceased and the defendant were friends. On Saturday afternoon, September 19, 1959, about 6 o'clock P. M., the deceased went to the defendant's home to visit. He remained there until about 9:30 o'clock P. M., after which they went together in the defendant's automobile to a place of business known as Pool's Place, located near Sumter, South Carolina. Before leaving his home to go to Pool's Place, the defendant had consumed one bottle of beer. Both remained at Pool's Place until it closed at 12 o'clock that night and, while there, they engaged in considerable drinking of intoxicants together. After the business closed and as they left the building, they walked by an automobile in which two Sumter County law enforcement officers were seated. The officers knew both the deceased and the defendant. The officers testified that they could tell that both had been drinking, and that the defendant was too much under the influence of intoxicants to drive an automobile. Seeing the automobile of the defendant parked near by, the officers warned the defendant in the presence of the deceased not to drive his automobile, as he was too drunk to do so. After this conversation, the two men left the officers and disappeared from sight. They were not seen again by the officers until after the collision in question. The officers remained at Pool's Place until about 12:20 A. M., and the automobile of the defendant was still there at that time. Nothing further is known of the activities of the deceased and the defendant until about 1 A. M., about 35 or 40 minutes later, when the Sheriff of Sumter County was notified of a wreck which had occurred on a highway about five miles from Pool's Place. When the Sheriff arrived at the scene of the wreck about ten minutes later, he found that the defendant's car had struck the abutment of a bridge, killing plaintiff's intestate. The deceased was found in the automobile and the defendant was walking around it, under the influence of intoxicants. The defendant admitted that he and the deceased consumed a quantity of beer during the evening preceding the wreck and to such an extent that he could remember nothing that transpired after he left the building at Pool's Place, not even his conversation with the officers. Charges of reckless homicide were preferred against the defendant in connection with the death of plaintiff's intestate, and he subsequently plead guilty to such charges.

We think that the lower Court was correct in holding, under the foregoing facts, that pla...

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9 cases
  • Berberich v. Jack
    • United States
    • South Carolina Supreme Court
    • April 4, 2011
    ...was also contributorily reckless, the plaintiff could not recover for the defendant's similarly reckless conduct. Ardis v. Griffin, 239 S.C. 529, 123 S.E.2d 876 (1962). In 1991, South Carolina abolished the doctrine of contributory negligence and adopted comparative negligence as its tort s......
  • Crocker v. Weathers
    • United States
    • South Carolina Supreme Court
    • June 14, 1962
    ...S.E.2d 797; Augustine v. Christopoulo, 196 S.C. 381, 13 S.E.2d 918; Jackson v. Jackson, 234 S.C. 291, 108 S.E.2d 86, and Ardis v. Griffin, 239 S.C. 529, 123 S.E.2d 876. In the case of Nettles v. Your Ice Co., supra, the guest was held to have been guilty of contributory willfulness in conti......
  • Sturcken v. Richland Oil Co.
    • United States
    • South Carolina Supreme Court
    • August 24, 1966
    ...part of plaintiff would bar recovery. This was a correct statement of the law in this State. Spillers v. Griffin, supra; Ardis v. Griffin, 239 S.C. 529, 123 S.E.2d 876. While the instructions were erroneous in the foregoing particulars, no prejudice resulted to the defendant therefrom and t......
  • Van Boven v. F. W. Woolworth Co., 17872
    • United States
    • South Carolina Supreme Court
    • February 8, 1962
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