Foster v. South Carolina Dept. of Highways and Public Transp., No. 23548

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtTOAL; HARWELL, Acting C.J., CHANDLER and FINNEY, JJ., and RANDALL T. BELL
Citation306 S.C. 519,413 S.E.2d 31
PartiesJeanette FOSTER, Respondent-Appellant, v. SOUTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF HIGHWAYS AND PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION, Appellant-Respondent. . Heard
Docket NumberNo. 23548
Decision Date09 October 1991

Page 31

413 S.E.2d 31
306 S.C. 519
Jeanette FOSTER, Respondent-Appellant,
v.
SOUTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF HIGHWAYS AND PUBLIC
TRANSPORTATION, Appellant-Respondent.
No. 23548.
Supreme Court of South Carolina.
Heard Oct. 9, 1991.
Decided Jan. 6, 1992.
Rehearing Denied Feb. 4, 1992.

Page 33

[306 S.C. 522] William U. Gunn and Perry D. Boulier, both of Holcombe, Bomar, Cothran and Gunn, P.A., Spartanburg, for appellant-respondent.

Kenneth C. Anthony, Jr., of Knie, White & Anthony, Spartanburg, for respondent-appellant.

TOAL, Justice:

In this suit the Respondent-Appellant, Foster, sued the Highway Department under the South Carolina Tort Claims Act (SCTCA). The Highway Department appeals the verdict for Foster claiming that: (1) the trial court erred in admitting a letter written to the Department by a resident, (2) the trial court erred in failing to find Foster contributorily negligent as a matter of law, and (3) as a matter of law, the Highway Department's employees' acts were discretionary and entitled to immunity under the Act. Foster cross-appealed, claiming the trial court erred in reducing her Three Million ($3,000,000) Dollar verdict to Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand ($250,000) Dollars pursuant to the liability cap provided in the SCTCA. Foster asserts the cap is unconstitutional. We affirm.

FACTS

On May 3, 1989, Jeanette Foster inadvertently drove her right wheels off the edge of Highway 295. Due to the drop in the shoulder, she lost control of her car as she attempted to drive back on to the highway. Foster's car veered off the road and down an embankment. She was thrown from her car and suffered serious injuries which left her a quadriplegic.

Foster alleged the Highway Department failed to give proper warning of the low shoulder and failed to properly maintain and repair the highway. The Highway Department denied the allegations and raised the defense of contributory negligence.

The jury returned a verdict of Three Million ($3,000,000) Dollars for Foster.

Page 34

The trial court reduced the verdict to Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand ($250,000) Dollars in accordance with the applicable liability cap provided in the SCTCA. S.C.Code Ann. § 15-78-120(a)(1) (Supp.1990).

[306 S.C. 523] Admissibility of the Letter for the

Purpose of Proving the Department had Notice

Foster introduced into evidence a letter sent to the Highway Department prior to Foster's accident by a resident of Highway 295. The given purpose of the letter was to show the Department had notice of the low shoulders on this particular stretch of Highway 295. The Department attempted to prevent the admission of this letter by conceding the Department had notice the shoulders were too low. The trial court properly denied the Department's objection on these grounds. A letter evidencing the Department had notice that there were portions of the highway with drops of eight inches is not rendered inadmissible by a general concession that the Department knew the shoulders were low. See, doCanto v. Ametek, Inc., 367 Mass. 776, 328 N.E.2d 873 (1975). See also State v. Greene, 255 S.C. 548, 180 S.E.2d 179 (1971) (the requiring of parties to stipulate is within the discretion of the trial judge).

The Department also objected to the letter on the grounds that it contained opinions and irrelevant accusations. The Department objected to the letter in its entirety. At no time did the Department ask the trial judge to redact the irrelevant portions of the letter. Had such a motion been made, it would have been proper to grant it. However, where evidence is objected to in its entirety, some portion of which is admissible, such objection is not well taken, even though some portions of the evidence are in fact inadmissible. Johnson v. State, 146 Ga. 190(2), 91 S.E. 42 (1916). Thus, the letter was properly admitted.

The trial court attempted to cure any unduly prejudicial affect of the letter by instructing the jury that it was to be considered only on the issue of notice. The Department made no objection to the limiting instructions. Therefore, the Department has waived its right to objection to the inadequacy of these instructions.

Contributory Negligence

The Highway Department contends Foster was contributorily negligent as a matter of law. Negligence being a mixed question of law and fact, it is the court's [306 S.C. 524] duty to define negligence, but it is the jury's province to draw the inference from the facts. Rogers v. Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Co., 222 S.C. 66, 71 S.E.2d 585 (1952). Only when the evidence supports but one reasonable inference does the question become a matter of law for the court. Id. The Department relies...

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39 practice notes
  • Proctor v. Dept. of Health, No. 4098.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • March 20, 2006
    ...a "judgment" call based on applicable professional standards. Foster v. South Carolina Dep't of Highways & Pub. Transp., 306 S.C. 519, 413 S.E.2d 31 Page 512 In determining whether Dorsey's action was discretionary, it is helpful to compare the two classifications for the duti......
  • Sloan v. Sc Bd. of Physical Therapy ex'Mnrs, No. 26209.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • September 25, 2006
    ...purpose with delicate precision in order to survive a constitutional challenge." Foster v. S.C. Dept. of Highways Pub. Transp., 306 S.C. 519, 526, 413 S.E.2d 31, 36 "When the issue is the constitutionality of a statute, every presumption will be made in favor of its validity and n......
  • Andrews v. Metro. Water Reclamation Dist. of Greater Chi., Docket No. 124283
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • December 19, 2019
    ...Wimmer , 303 Or. 580, 739 P.2d 564, 569 (1987) (en banc ); Foster v. South Carolina Department of Highways & Public Transportation , 306 S.C. 519, 413 S.E.2d 31, 35 (S.C. 1992) ; Little v. Utah State Division of Family Services , 667 P.2d 49, 51 (Utah 1983) ; King v. City of Seattle , 8......
  • Doe ex rel. Johnson v. South Carolina, Soc. Serv., No. 08-2161.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • March 5, 2010
    ...professional standards appropriate to resolve the issue before them." Foster v. South Carolina Dep't of Highways & Pub. Transp., 306 S.C. 519, 413 S.E.2d 31, 35 (1992). Generally speaking, the SCTCA must be liberally construed in favor of the governmental defendant. See Faile v. So......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
39 cases
  • Proctor v. Dept. of Health, No. 4098.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • March 20, 2006
    ...a "judgment" call based on applicable professional standards. Foster v. South Carolina Dep't of Highways & Pub. Transp., 306 S.C. 519, 413 S.E.2d 31 Page 512 In determining whether Dorsey's action was discretionary, it is helpful to compare the two classifications for the duti......
  • Sloan v. Sc Bd. of Physical Therapy ex'Mnrs, No. 26209.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • September 25, 2006
    ...purpose with delicate precision in order to survive a constitutional challenge." Foster v. S.C. Dept. of Highways Pub. Transp., 306 S.C. 519, 526, 413 S.E.2d 31, 36 "When the issue is the constitutionality of a statute, every presumption will be made in favor of its validity and n......
  • Andrews v. Metro. Water Reclamation Dist. of Greater Chi., Docket No. 124283
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • December 19, 2019
    ...Wimmer , 303 Or. 580, 739 P.2d 564, 569 (1987) (en banc ); Foster v. South Carolina Department of Highways & Public Transportation , 306 S.C. 519, 413 S.E.2d 31, 35 (S.C. 1992) ; Little v. Utah State Division of Family Services , 667 P.2d 49, 51 (Utah 1983) ; King v. City of Seattle , 8......
  • Doe ex rel. Johnson v. South Carolina, Soc. Serv., No. 08-2161.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • March 5, 2010
    ...professional standards appropriate to resolve the issue before them." Foster v. South Carolina Dep't of Highways & Pub. Transp., 306 S.C. 519, 413 S.E.2d 31, 35 (1992). Generally speaking, the SCTCA must be liberally construed in favor of the governmental defendant. See Faile v. So......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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