Clark v. Shefferly

Decision Date04 September 1956
Docket NumberNo. 12,12
Citation78 N.W.2d 155,346 Mich. 332
PartiesAbraham CLARK, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. Henry SHEFFERLY and Abe Nabato, Defendants and Appellants.
CourtMichigan Supreme Court

Edward N. Barnard, Detroit, for defendants-appellants.

A. Lewis Fineberg and Gabriel Cohn, Detroit, for plaintiff-appellee. Robert D. Anspach, Detroit, of counsel.

Before the Entire Bench.

BLACK, Justice.

This negligence case was tried to court and jury in Detroit common pleas. Verdict and judgment for plaintiff in the sum of $1,133.33 resulted in appeal to and affirmance by the Wayne circuit court. Defendants appeal to us for reversal of such affirming judgment.

The circuit judge, by careful opinion, assembled the facts and declared his decision on appeal as follows:

'Plaintiff boarded and becaume a passenger in defendants' cab at about 6 A.M. on February 12, 1955. He entered the cab in the vicinity of Adams and St. Antoine and directed the driver to take him to 2355 Fullerton Avenue in the same city. It was a dark night and it had been snowing. There was ice on the streets. When the cab arrived at the Fullerton destination, plaintiff paid his fare while still in the cab and opened the right rear door and started to get out of the cab.

'The plaintiff then testified to the happening of the accident as follows:

"I got out of the cab right into the street. I had my left hand on the door and the cab started moving and then he caused me to slip and grab with the right hand and the door closed on that small finger (indicating), and then I hollered ever since. He didn't hear me. He increased his speed at the time when the door snatched the finger off.

"Q. (By Fineberg, continuing): Did the driver stop? A. Well, I had to run and I was hollering and running; he finally stopped on LaSalle.'

'The plaintiff's small finger on his right hand was injured. The defendant, Nabato, who was driving the cab, took the plaintiff to the Highland Park General Hospital. The plaintiff had two operations on his finger which entailed grafting. He was unemployed for three weeks and two days. The hospital bill was two hundred and forty-seven dollars, and the doctor bill was one hundred and forty dollars.

'At the conclusion of plaintiff's proofs, the defendants made a motion for no cause for action, which was denied. The case went to the jury, and the jury returned a verdict of one thousand one hundred thirty-three dollars and thirty-three cents against both defendants. The defendants appealed.

'The defendants cited the cases of McIntyre v. Kunsky Theatres Corporation, 256 Mich. 634 ; Camp v. Spring, 241 Mich. 700 ; Abent v. Michigan Cab Company, 279 Mich. 617 ; Kerr v. City of Detroit, 255 Mich. 446 , in support of their appeal. In each of those cases the plaintiff was found to be guilty of contributory negligence. Plaintiff having placed his fingers or hand in the jam of the door, which was a dangerous position, was found to be the negligence. In the Abent case, supra [279 Mich. 617, 273 N.W. 290], the Court stated:

"Ordinarily a doorjamb or crack is no place for fingers.'

'However, the facts in the present case are in no way similar to those cases cited. Plaintiff hired a taxi cab to take him to his destination. The cab driver, when he arrived at his passenger's destination, stopped the cab in the center of the street instead of at the curb. It was dark and the street was icy and slippery. Plaintiff paid his fare and started to alight. He placed his left hand on the door of the cab and as he stepped down the cab started moving. The movement of the cab caused him to slip and he grabbed the edge of the door with his right hand. The door closed on plaintiff's right hand, causing the injuries to the little finger.

'The negligence of the defendant in starting up his cab before the plaintiff had alighted and reached a place of safety was the proximate cause of the accident. The plaintiff was not guilty of any contributory negligence. Taxi cabs are common carriers and as such owe a high degree of care to the passengers.'

First: The initial question is fairly disclosed in the circuit judge's aforesaid ruling. He rightly appraised as inapplicable the cases cited by defendants and found that they afforded no ground for direction of a verdict. This is a simple case of averred negligence and freedom from contributory negligence presenting questions of fact only on the proof, and it is controlled so far as right to a directed verdict is concerned by common-law rules given in Detroit & Milwaukee Railroad Co. v. Van Steinburg, 17 Mich. 99 1. The jury was entitled to find in accordance with plaintiff's theory and favorably-viewed testimony that the cab driver should have delayed his start until plaintiff, whose left hand rested on the opened door of the cab, was safely clear of the cab. It, the jury, was likewise entitled to find from such testimony that the cab driver could and should have perceived, considering slippery condition of the pavement and the fact of the open door, that plaintiff was momentarily steadying himself by such means and might be injured by immediate forward movement of the cab. Indeed, it cannot be seriously questioned that the proof when favorably viewed discloses causal negligence on the part of the cab driver 2.

So the real question in the case is the issue of contributory negligence. When we undertake to test a motion for direction of verdict addressed to contributory negligence, our duty is to judge the plaintiff's conduct, not alone by what he did or did not do, but by the conjoining facts pertaining to conduct of his adversary litigant. Mr. Justice Cooley picks up from here. I quote as follows from report in the Van Steinburg case, pages 118-119 of 17 Mich.:

'Negligence, as I understand it, consists in a want of that reasonable care which would be exercised by a person of ordinary prudence under all the existing circumstances, in view of the probable danger of injury. The injury is, therefore, one which must take into consideration all these circumstances, and it must measure the prudence of the party's conduct by a standdard of behavior likely to have been adopted by other persons of common prudence. Moreover, if the danger depends at all upon the action of any other person under a given set of circumstances the prudence of the party injured must be estimated in view of what he had a right to expect from such other person, and he is not to be considered blamable if the injury has resulted from the action of another which he could not reasonably have anticipated. Thus the problem is complicated by the necessity of taking into account the two sets of circumstances affecting the conduct of different persons, and is only to be satisfactorily solved by the jury placing themselves in the position of the injured person, and examining those circumstances as they then presented themselves to him, and from that standpoint judging whether he was guilty of negligence or not. It is evident that such a problem can not usually be one upon which the law can pronounce a definite sentence, and that it must be left to the sifting and determination of a jury.' (Emphasis mine.)

Van Stenburg gives us the...

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16 cases
  • Nabozny v. Hamil
    • United States
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    • December 1, 1960
    ...Affirmed. Costs to appellee. DETHMERS, C. J., and CARR, KELLY, SMITH and SOURIS, JJ., concurred with EDWARDS, J. 1 Clark v. Shefferly, 346 Mich. 332, 335, 336, 78 N.W.2d 155; Ohman v. Vandawater, 347 Mich. 112, 116, 117, 78 N.W.2d 628; Kaminski v. Grand Trunk W. R. Co., 347 Mich. 417, 420, ......
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    ...duty on the part of the defendant, with respect to which duty the plaintiff had reasonable rights of expectation. See Clark v. Shefferly, 346 Mich. 332, 78 N.W.2d 155 and this connected passage of DeLuca v. Wonnacott, 358 Mich. 319, 324, 100 N.W.2d 288, 'Neither negligence nor contributory ......
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    ...have been granted in this case. In an opinion of the Supreme Court of Michigan announced only a few weeks ago, Clark v. Shefferly, 346 Mich. 332, 335, 78 N.W.2d 155, 158, the opinion writer stated: "This is a simple case of averred negligence and freedom from contributory negligence present......
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