Gerhardt v. McChesney

Decision Date08 January 1982
Docket NumberNo. 43521,43521
Citation210 Neb. 351,314 N.W.2d 258
PartiesDonald John GERHARDT, Special Administrator of the Estate of Lena Augusta Gerhardt, deceased, Appellant, v. William Emmitt McCHESNEY, Appellee.
CourtNebraska Supreme Court

Syllabus by the Court

1. Summary Judgments. Where the evidence is such that reasonable minds can draw but one conclusion therefrom, it is the duty of the court to decide the question as a matter of law rather than submit it to a jury. However, where reasonable minds may differ as to the conclusions or inferences to be drawn from the evidence, or where there is a conflict in the evidence, such issues must be submitted to the jury.

2. Negligence: Pedestrians. One who attempts to cross a street at a point between intersections without looking is guilty of such negligence as would bar recovery as a matter of law.

3. Negligence: Pedestrians. A pedestrian who crosses a street between intersections is required to keep a constant lookout for his or her own safety in all directions of anticipated danger.

4. Negligence: Pedestrians. A pedestrian who crosses a street between intersections is charged with the exercise of a greater degree of care than one who crosses a street at a crosswalk where protection is afforded by giving the pedestrian the right-of-way.

5. Negligence: Pedestrians. When one, being in a place of safety, sees or could have seen the approach of a moving vehicle in close proximity to him or her and suddenly moves from the place of safety into the path of such vehicle and is struck, such conduct constitutes contributory negligence more than slight as a matter of law and precludes recovery.

6. Wrongful Death: Presumptions: Negligence. The presumption in an action for wrongful death that a decedent exercised reasonable care for his or her own safety has no probative force, is a mere rule of law, obtains only in the absence of direct or circumstantial evidence justifying an inference on the subject, and disappears when evidence is produced.

Warren C. Schrempp and John J. Hanley, Omaha, for appellant.

Gross, Welch, Vinardi, Kauffman, Day & Langdon, Omaha, for appellee.

Heard before BOSLAUGH, McCOWN, CLINTON, and BRODKEY, JJ., and BLUE, District Judge.

BRODKEY, Justice.

Donald John Gerhardt, special administrator of the estate of Lena Augusta Gerhardt, brought this action for wrongful death, resulting from an automobile-pedestrian accident, in the District Court of Douglas County, Nebraska, against the operator of the motor vehicle, defendant William Emmitt McChesney. In his petition filed on August 16, 1976, the plaintiff alleged negligence on the part of the defendant as follows: (1) Failing to maintain a proper lookout; (2) Failing to maintain reasonable control of his motor vehicle; (3) Driving said vehicle at an excessive rate of speed under the circumstances; (4) Failing to brake, swerve, or otherwise avoid striking plaintiff's decedent; and (5) Failing to exercise ordinary care. The defendant admitted to the occurrence of the accident, denied negligence, and alleged the following specific acts of contributory negligence on the part of the decedent: (1) Failing to keep a proper lookout for the defendant's vehicle; (2) Walking onto Harney Street at a point other than an intersection; (3) Failing to stop to permit defendant's vehicle to proceed on Harney Street; and (4) Failing to yield the right-of-way to defendant's vehicle. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on January 22, 1980, alleging that there were no material issues of fact and that, based upon the exhibits offered at the time of the hearing, the court should enter judgment for the defendant as a matter of law. At the hearing on the motion for summary judgment, the court took the motion under advisement, stating: "In making my ruling on defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment I shall consider only Exhibit Nos. 1 through 8 and plaintiff's Answers to Interrogatories. No further evidence will be considered." Exhibits 1 through 5, contained in the bill of exceptions, are photographs of the scene of the accident; exhibit 6 is the accident report; exhibit 7 is the deposition of the defendant; and exhibit 8 is the deposition of a witness, Gregory M. Herrek. The trial court entered its order on said motion on March 27, 1980, granting the motion and dismissing the case at plaintiff's costs. We affirm.

The evidence in the record on appeal reveals that at about 2 p. m., September 20, 1974, the plaintiff's decedent, a woman 65 years of age, was crossing Harney Street on foot at a point between 23rd and 24th Streets in Omaha, Nebraska, when she was struck by a car driven by the defendant. At the time of the accident, the defendant was proceeding east on Harney Street, a one-way street, in the lane closest to the south curb lane. The weather that day was overcast; however, the pavement was dry and there is no indication that visibility in the area was obscured by any other factors. The defendant was driving at an estimated speed of 20 to 25 miles per hour. There is little question that at the time she was struck by defendant's automobile, the decedent was attempting to cross Harney Street from the south side of the street and at a point in the middle of the block where there was no marked crosswalk. This is made clear from the photographs of the scene of the accident received in evidence. In addition, the defendant testified, in his deposition received in evidence, as follows: "Q. Did you ever see the lady that you eventually struck before you struck her? A. Just instantly before. Q. Where was she instantly before? A. She was out in front of me almost in a flash, it seemed, or should I say-I didn't realize she was going to be in front of me until she was in front of me, if that answers your question. If you can put yourself in my position, I suppose we see people every day standing by the curb or standing by a car, but they wait for us as we go by, but this woman did not wait. She stepped out in front." Even if it be considered that the foregoing testimony by the defendant was not absolutely clear as to whether the decedent was crossing from the south side to the north side of the street at the time in question or possibly had been crossing from the north curb to the south curb, the matter is set at rest, we believe, by the allegations contained in the pleadings in this case. Plaintiff's petition filed in this matter alleges, among other things: "That on September 20, 1974 at approximately 3:00 p. m. Plaintiff's decedent was attempting to cross Harney Street at approximately 23rd Street; that said crossing was to be made in a south to north direction ...." Also the answer of the defendant, filed in response to plaintiff's petition, alleges that "plaintiff's decedent was crossing from south to north." These judicial admissions contained in the pleadings of the parties would seem to lay at rest any possible question as to where the decedent had been immediately prior to being struck by defendant's automobile. The testimony of the witness Gregory M. Herrek, as set out in his deposition received in evidence, does not in any way contradict this conclusion but, in effect, reinforces that conclusion. He was standing on the south side of the street near the scene of the accident. He testified he did not see the decedent but his first knowledge of the incident was when he heard the screech of brakes and a...

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    ...than slight as a matter of law and precludes recovery. Hennings v. Schufeldt, 222 Neb. 416, 384 N.W.2d 274 (1986); Gerhardt v. McChesney, 210 Neb. 351, 314 N.W.2d 258 (1982). The trial court properly directed a verdict against the plaintiff in the accident involving the station wagon. We ne......
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    ...... such issues must be submitted to the jury." Hansen v. Hasenkamp, 192 Neb. 530, 534, 223 N.W.2d 44, 47 (1974); Gerhardt v. McChesney, 210 Neb. 351, 314 N.W.2d 258 (1982). We must therefore review all of builder's evidence and the pleadings in this posture. The evidence discloses that the......
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    • Nebraska Court of Appeals
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    ...of law and precludes recovery." Hennings v. Schufeldt, 222 Neb. 416, 421, 384 N.W.2d 274, 278 (1986) (quoting Gerhardt v. McChesney, 210 Neb. 351, 314 N.W.2d 258 (1982)). See, also, Neb.Rev.Stat. § 60-6,153(2) (Reissue 1993) (no pedestrian shall suddenly leave curb or other place of safety ......
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