Davis v. Doe

Decision Date20 May 1985
Docket NumberNo. 22340,22340
Citation285 S.C. 538,331 S.E.2d 352
CourtSouth Carolina Supreme Court
PartiesNancy DAVIS, Appellant, v. John DOE, Respondent. . Heard

D.W. Green, Jr., of Green, Sasser & Beverly, Conway, for appellant.

Albert E. Wheless, of Wheless & McInnis, North Myrtle Beach and David J. Canty, Myrtle Beach, for respondent.

HARWELL, Justice:

The issue in this appeal is whether contact with an unattached portion of an unknown vehicle meets the physical contact requirement of S.C. Code Ann. § 56-9-850 (1976). The lower court held that it did not and therefore granted the respondent's motion for summary judgment. We affirm.

Appellant passenger was riding in a car with her sister-in-law when a wheel bearing broke through the front windshield and hit her in the chest. The accident occurred just as her vehicle was passing an oncoming log truck. After an unsuccessful attempt to identify the truck or its driver, appellant reported the accident to the South Carolina Highway Patrol. The appellant subsequently brought an action pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. § 56-9-830 (1976), the uninsured motorist provisions of the Financial Responsibility Act. The sole issue is whether physical contact with only an unattached portion of the unknown vehicle meets the condition precedent of physical contact with the unknown vehicle as required by S.C. Code Ann. § 56-9-850 (1976).

There are several cases which interpret the physical contact requirement of S.C.Code Ann. § 56-9-850 (1976). When an unknown vehicle causes an intervening vehicle to collide with the insured's vehicle, physical contact is present because the statute requires causal and not direct physical contact with the unknown vehicle. Spaulding v. State Farm Mutual Insurance Company, 262 S.C. 95, 202 S.E.2d 653 (1974). However, physical contact with the unknown vehicle is not present when there is a collision between the insured's vehicle and the vehicle with which the unknown motorist was racing. Coker v. Nationwide Insurance Company, 251 S.C. 175, 161 S.E.2d 175 (1968). Also, there is no physical contact as required by the statute where the unknown vehicle causes another vehicle to swerve and collide with the insured. Sapp v. State Farm Automobile Ins. Co., 272 S.C. 301, 251 S.E.2d 745 (1979). Likewise, physical contact is not present when a motorcycle comes in contact with a slick chemical substance allegedly spilled on the highway by an unknown motor vehicle. Wynn v. Doe, 255 S.C. 509, 180 S.E.2d 95 (1971).

In the case at bar, it is possible that a jury might find that the wheel bearing which struck the appellant came from the log truck and was an integral part of it. However, as this court stated in Wynn v. Doe, 255 S.C. at 512, 180 S.E.2d at 96, "Nowhere does the statute state or imply that the physical contact requirement may be met by proof that there was in fact an unknown driver and vehicle nor by proof that the unknown vehicle caused the accident." Similarly, the statute does not state or imply that recovery may be allowed for damages caused by contact with an unattached part of the unknown vehicle. The statutory definition of "motor vehicle" refers to the vehicle as a whole and not to parts or portions thereof. S.C. Code Ann. §...

To continue reading

Request your trial
10 cases
  • Wausau Underwriters Ins. Co. v. Howser
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of South Carolina
    • January 8, 1990
    ...construed the statutory requirement that the injury or damage must have been caused by physical contact with the unknown vehicle.2 In Davis v. Doe the Supreme Court stated: "If it is advisable that the statute be changed, the solution lies within the province of the Legislature. We have no ......
  • Bradley v. Doe
    • United States
    • South Carolina Court of Appeals
    • July 6, 2007
    ...dumped or spilled there by an unknown vehicle, did not constitute physical contact with the unknown vehicle); See also Davis v. Doe, 285 S.C. 538, 331 S.E.2d 352 (1985) (holding a wheel bearing which had dislodged from an unknown vehicle and broken through the insured's windshield did not c......
  • Armstrong v. School Dist. Five, Lexington, Richland, Civ.A. 3:997-903-0.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of South Carolina
    • October 15, 1998
    ...statutory language conveys a clear and definite meaning, a court may not look for or impose another meaning. See, Davis v. Doe, 285 S.C. 538, 331 S.E.2d 352, 354 (S.C.1985), Coker v. Nationwide Insurance Company, 251 S.C. 175, 161 S.E.2d 175, 178 (S.C.1968). The Supreme Court of South Carol......
  • Elchehimi v. Nationwide Ins. Co.
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Appeals
    • December 28, 2005
    ...coverage when "an integral part" of an unidentified vehicle (a wheel bearing) struck the insured vehicle. See Davis v. Doe, 285 S.C. 538, 331 S.E.2d 352, 353-54 (1985). Thus, nine of the thirteen states which have statutes requiring physical contact and which have addressed coverage under a......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT