Cox v. Lee

Decision Date23 March 1949
Docket Number234
Citation52 S.E.2d 355,230 N.C. 155
PartiesCOX v. LEE.
CourtNorth Carolina Supreme Court

Civil action to recover damages resulting from an automobile-truck collision.

The evidence most favorable to plaintiff tends to show that on the night of 24 December 1947, about 6:30 p. m defendant's pick-up truck was standing without lights backed up to his corn crib on the north side of the Newton Grove-Goldsboro highway. The front end of the truck was on the hard surface portion of the highway, 3 to 4.8 feet. Defendant was under the shelter unloading corn. Plaintiff's son, operating plaintiff's car at about fifty miles per hour, on his right-hand side, approached from the east. At the time another car was standing on or near the shoulder of the road on the south side, headed east, with its parking lights on. It was standing twenty-five or thirty feet to the east of defendant's truck. The road was straight to the east from three-fourths to one mile, and there was no other traffic on the road and no obstruction to prevent one traveling westerly from seeing at least one-half mile. The car collided with the front end of the truck and then traveled on down the highway for about 300 feet. It was badly damaged.

The defendant offered evidence tending to show that plaintiff's car was traveling seventy-five or eighty miles per hour, and that the other car standing on the south side was twenty-five or thirty feet off the highway at or near a grove.

When the cause came on for trial, the court below submitted issues of negligence, contributory negligence, and damages. The jury answered each issue in favor of the plaintiff. From judgment on the verdict, defendant appealed.

Wellons & Canaday, of Smithfield, for plaintiff appellee.

Lyon & Lyon, of Smithfield, for defendant appellant.

BARNHILL Justice.

The conclusion that the defendant committed an act of negligence in leaving his truck standing partly on the hard surface portion of the highway in the nighttime, unattended and without lights, would seem to be inescapable.

The question then is this: Does the evidence, considered in the light most favorable to plaintiff, disclose negligence on the part of the driver of plaintiff's automobile which, as a matter of law, was a contributing cause of the collision and resulting damage? A careful review of the record leads us to the conclusion that we must answer in the affirmative.

The driver of an automobile is not required to anticipate negligence on the part of others, and his failure to do so does not constitute an act of negligence. Reeves v Staley, 220 N.C. 573, 18 S.E.2d 239; Caulder v. Gresham, 224 N.C. 402, 30 S.E.2d 312; Hill v. Lopez, 228 N.C. 433, 45 S.E.2d 539.

But he is under the duty to keep a reasonably careful lookout. Murray v. Atlantic Coast Line R. Co., 218 N.C. 392, 11 S.E.2d 326; Mills v. Moore, 219 N.C. 25, 12 S.E.2d 661; Reeves v. Staley, supra; Tarrant v. Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co., 221 N.C. 390, 20 S.E.2d 565; Harper v. Harper, 225 N.C. 260, 34 S.E.2d 185; Hobbs v. Queen City Coach Co., 225 N.C. 323, 34 S.E.2d 311; Henson v. Wilson, 225 N.C. 417, 35 S.E.2d 245. 'The requirements of prudent operation are not necessarily satisfied when the defendant 'looks' either preceding or during the operation of his car. It is the duty of the driver of a motor vehicle not merely to look, but to keep an outlook in the direction of travel; and he is held to the duty of seeing what he ought to have seen. ' Wall v. Bain, 222 N.C. 375, 23 S.E.2d 330, 333.

Likewise, he must at all times operate his vehicle with due regard to the width, traffic, and condition of the highway, and he must decrease speed and keep his car under control 'when special hazard exists * * * by reason of weather or highway conditions, and speed shall be decreased as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any * * * vehicle, or other conveyance on * * * the highway * * *' G.S. s 20-141. This requirement, as expressed in G.S. ss 20-140, 141, constitutes the hub of the motor vehicle law around which other provisions regulating the operation of motor vehicles revolve. Kolman v. Silbert, 219 N.C. 134, 12 S.E.2d 915; Brown v. Southern Paper Products Co.,...

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