Cline v. Kehs

Decision Date22 June 1978
Docket NumberNo. 55416,55416
Citation146 Ga.App. 350,246 S.E.2d 329
PartiesCLINE v. KEHS.
CourtGeorgia Court of Appeals

Simmons, Warren & Szczecko, Joseph Szczecko, P. A., Decatur, for appellant.

Savell, Williams, Cox & Angel, Edward L. Savell, Andrew Robert Greene, Atlanta, for appellee.


Plaintiff brought this suit to recover damages for personal injuries sustained in an automobile collision. Shortly after the trial commenced, the trial judge on his own motion decided to bifurcate the issues of liability and damage, and to submit the case to the jury on written interrogatories. At the close of the trial on liability, the jury returned answers of "yes" to the three questions submitted by the court: Was the defendant negligent; was the plaintiff negligent; was any negligence of the plaintiff equal to or greater than the negligence of the defendant. Based on these answers, the trial court entered a judgment for the defendant, and plaintiff appeals. Held:

1. Plaintiff contends that the manner in which the trial judge bifurcated this case violated fundamental principles of due process and deprived plaintiff of his constitutional right to a fair trial. The court had the authority, pursuant to CPA § 42 (b) (Code Ann. § 81A-142 (b)), to order a separate trial on the issues of liability and damages. The court properly used its broad discretionary power not to encumber the trial with issues that could be separated, and being a discretionary matter there will be no reversal unless there has been a manifest abuse of discretion. Sollek v. Laseter, 124 Ga.App. 131, 183 S.E.2d 86. None has been shown.

2. As the trial court bifurcated the issues of liability and damage, no error was committed in excluding certain evidence concerning the permanent nature of plaintiff's injuries, or in excluding certain medical bills and records. The evidence excluded was not relevant to the issue of liability.

3. Plaintiff contends that the trial court erred in submitting written interrogatories to the jury which called for conclusions of law rather than findings of fact. As noted above, CPA § 42 (b) authorized a separate trial on the issue of liability. In furtherance of this statutory authority, a trial court may, under CPA § 49 (a) (Code Ann. § 81A-149 (a)), require a jury to return a special verdict "in the form of a special written finding upon each issue of fact." These interrogatories amounted to special verdicts. While the plaintiff did make a general objection to separating the issue of liability from the question of damages when originally informed by the court of its intention, the plaintiff did not raise any objection to the interrogatories as specifically submitted to the jury on the ground that the questions called for conclusions of law rather than findings of fact. In the absence of a specific and timely objection during the trial, the plaintiff waived any error and will not now be heard to complain that the interrogatories were erroneous. Folds v. Reese, 140 Ga.App. 291, 231 S.E.2d 808; 9 Wright & Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil § 2508.

4. While the trial court did not require the jury to return a general verdict for "plaintiff" or for "defendant," any error was waived as there was no request nor objection made to the form or content of the verdicts. Folds v. Reese, supra.

5. The trial court failed to give certain charges requested by plaintiff. No error was committed because:

(a) The requested charges concerning the measure of damages were not required because the court properly bifurcated the issues of liability and damages;

(b) Other requested charges concerned the negligence of the defendant. As the jury found the defendant to be negligent, plaintiff could not have been prejudiced by the failure to give the...

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19 cases
  • 77 Hawai'i 282, Montalvo v. Lapez
    • United States
    • Hawaii Supreme Court
    • October 12, 1994
    ...jury on the meaning of proximate or legal cause, when such issue is in dispute, is plain error requiring reversal. In Cline v. Kehs, 146 Ga.App. 350, 246 S.E.2d 329 (1978), the Georgia Court of Appeals remanded an auto accident negligence case because of inadequate instructions on proximate......
  • Whitley v. Gwinnett County
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • March 15, 1996 the case sub judice. Parks v. Consolidated Freightways, 187 Ga.App. 576, 577(1), 370 S.E.2d 827 (1988); Cline v. Kehs, 146 Ga.App. 350(1), 246 S.E.2d 329 (1978). 3. Whitley argues that the trial court erred in granting defendants' motion in limine on the admissibility of similar accident......
  • Hughes v. Malone
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • June 22, 1978
  • Dietz v. Becker
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • July 2, 1993 our law that no liability attaches unless the negligence alleged is the proximate cause of the injury sustained.' Cline v. Kehs, 146 Ga.App. 350(6) (246 SE2d 329) (1978)." Dilworth v. Boeckler, 187 Ga.App. 241, 370 S.E.2d 17 (1988). Since the grant of a directed verdict on the issue of "......
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1 books & journal articles
  • A Better Orientation for Jury Instructions - Charles M. Cork, Iii
    • United States
    • Mercer University School of Law Mercer Law Reviews No. 54-1, September 2002
    • Invalid date
    ...trial judge instruct the jury 'as to the legal meaning of proximate cause and its application to the facts ") (quoting Cline v. Kehs, 146 Ga. App. 350, 352, 246 S.E.2d 329, 331 (1978)). But see Gray, which distinguishes the rule in Taft as applicable only if the factual causation issues are......

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