Cook v. Norwood

Decision Date27 July 1950
Docket Number16390.
PartiesCOOK v. NORWOOD (two cases).
CourtSouth Carolina Supreme Court

John G. Dinkins, Manning, John Wilson Patrick, St George, for appellant.

J. D Parler, St. George, for respondent.

TAYLOR, Justice.

This appeal comes from the Court of Common Pleas for Dorchester County where action was commenced by the respondents for damages alleged to have been sustained by reason of a collision between an Oldsmobile Sedan, driven by respondent R. E. Cook, with Beatrice M. Cook as passenger, and a Buick Sedan which was owned and operated by the appellant, W. J. Norwood, the collision having occurred approximately five miles south of the Town of St. George on State Highway No. 15.

The two cases were tried together on April 20, 1949, before the Honorable Steve C. Griffith, the Presiding Judge, and a jury, resulting in a verdict for respondent, R. E. Cook, for $2,000.00 actual damages and $1,000.00 punitive damages, and in favor of the respondent, Beatrice M. Cook, for $1,500.00 actual damages and $1,500.00 punitive damages. At the conclusion of respondents' testimony, the appellant made a motion for a nonsuit in each case, and at the conclusion of all the testimony, he moved for a directed verdict as to both actual and punitive damages, all of which were refused. After the rendition of the verdict, appellant moved that the verdicts be set aside and a new trial granted; failing in this, he moved that the verdicts be set aside as to punitive damages.

Appellant was traveling in his Buick Sedan on State Highway No. 15 approximately five miles south of the Town of St. George en route from North Carolina to his home in Florida. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon and the pavement was wet with showers. Respondents were traveling in the opposite direction on their way from Savannah, Georgia, to Florence South Carolina. There were three cars immediately in front of appellant traveling in the same direction. When he pulled out from behind these cars in an attempt to pass, he saw the oncoming car in which respondents were traveling. Realizing that he did not have time to pass the three cars in front of him, he pulled back in line and after getting back in line, for some reason when respondents' car was practically even with that of his own, the front part of his car suddenly crossed over the center line and crashed into the left said of respondents' car, turning it on its side in the ditch.

Mr. Cook, one of the respondents and driver of the Oldsmobile Sedan, testified that he saw the oncoming car attempting to pass and realizing that it was traveling fast and did not have sufficient room or time to pass, pulled his car to the right, at the same time slowing down; that appellant's ca then pulled back in line but suddenly darted across the center line five feet or more, creashing into the side of the car. Appellant contended that, upon pulling out from behind the string of cars immediately in front of him, he realized that he did not have sufficient time to pass and therefore pulled back in line. Upon doing so, the car immediately in front of him apparently slowed down, causing him to apply his brakes and that upon doing so, the front end of his car skidded out and across the center line approximately two feet.

Appellant testified that respondents' car was traveling approximately sixty miles per hour but there is other testimony to the effect that the speed was not nearly so great and that the respondents' car traveled a distinct of only a few feet from the point of impact. There is no question but what appellant pulled out from behind the three cars and attempted to pass when he did not have sufficient time. This certainly was one of the series of events which resulted in the collision of the two cars.

Section 1616(9), Code of Laws for South Carolina, 1942, provides: 'No vehicle shall be driven to the left side of the center of the roadway in overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction unless such left side is clearly visible and is free of oncoming traffic for a sufficient distance ahead to permit such overtaking and passing to be completely made without interfering with the safe operation of any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction or any vehicle overtaken. In every event the overtaking vehicle must return to the right hand side of the roadway before coming within 100 feet of any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction.'

Appellants admitted conduct constituted a violation of the aforementioned section of the Code and this within itself constituted negligence per se. It therefore became incumbent upon the jury to determine whether such actions were the proximate cause of respondents' damages.

It is a well-settled rule of law that when a motion is made by a defendant for a directed verdict, the evidence must be considered most favorable to the plaintiff in determining whether or not the motion...

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