Greater Richmond Transit Co. v. Wilkerson, 901183

Docket NºNo. 901183
Citation242 Va. 65, 406 S.E.2d 28
Case DateJune 07, 1991
CourtSupreme Court of Virginia

Page 28

406 S.E.2d 28
242 Va. 65
Clementine M. WILKERSON.
Record No. 901183.
Supreme Court of Virginia.
June 7, 1991.

Page 30

[242 Va. 66] Beverly A. Burton, Asst. City Atty., for Greater Richmond transit co.

Brenda L. Page (Karen G. Eggleston, on brief), Richmond, for appellee, Wilkerson.

[242 Va. 65] Present: All the Justices.

[242 Va. 67] WHITING, Justice.

This is a personal injury case against a common carrier. It presents questions concerning the sufficiency and admissibility of evidence and the propriety of certain jury instructions.

On May 12, 1989, Tyrus R. Edwards parked a 1988 Flexible Series bus owned by her employer, Greater Richmond Transit Company, at a bus stop in the parking lot of Regency Mall in Henrico County. Because she had a 15-minute layover, Edwards left the bus and went into the mall. As she and other bus drivers had often done in the past, Edwards left the front door of the bus open to enable prospective passengers to enter, await the driver's return, and pay their fares.

Several such riders, including Clementine M. Wilkerson, entered the bus and seated themselves, awaiting Edwards's return. A few minutes after they were seated, the bus started rolling backward. All the riders jumped off the rolling bus, and Wilkerson sustained a broken leg when she hit the ground.

Upon Edwards's return, she found that the bus had rolled over the curb into which she had turned its front wheels, traveled some distance, and struck a parked car. Edwards claimed that the parking brake and interlock system were still engaged, just as she had left them. 1

Wilkerson filed this action against the bus company and Edwards (collectively, the bus company). At a jury trial, Wilkerson contended that Edwards negligently parked the bus on an incline without engaging the parking brake or its related interlock system.

Wilkerson's witness, John Hundley, III, the bus company mechanic responsible for maintenance of the brakes and interlock system, testified that no one reported any trouble with those mechanisms prior to this incident. Hundley also testified that a few days after the accident, without altering the brakes or the interlock system, he took the bus to Regency Mall, tested the brakes and interlock system in the general area where Edwards had stopped the bus, and found that they were in proper operating condition.

[242 Va. 68] Hundley and Robert D. Baldwin, a mechanical engineer who had familiarized himself with the brakes, described the

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braking system as one that is "fail safe" because if the air pressure system malfunctions, the brakes automatically engage, preventing the bus from moving. Therefore, Hundley and Baldwin opined that the bus would not have rolled if Edwards had engaged the parking brake and interlock.

Overruling a number of the bus company's objections to the court's rulings upon the evidence, instructions, and the bus company's motions to strike Wilkerson's evidence and to set aside the jury's $300,000 verdict, the trial court entered judgment on the verdict. The bus company appeals.

In accordance with well-settled appellate principles, we consider the evidence in the light most favorable to Wilkerson, the party who prevailed below.



The bus company maintains that the trial court should not have permitted Hundley to describe the results of his tests of the parking brake and interlock system. It argues that because this was a reconstruction of the circumstances of the accident, Wilkerson was required to show that the conditions under which Hundley's tests were made were the same or substantially similar in essential particulars to those existing at the time of the accident. However, Wilkerson offered the evidence merely to show that Hundley's tests indicated that the unaltered brakes and interlock system were not defective. Hundley's tests were not a reconstruction of the circumstances of the accident. Accordingly, Wilkerson was not required to show that the suggested minor variations in grade, weight load, and air pressure in the parking brake and interlock system would not have caused a properly functioning brake and interlock system to fail. Therefore, we find no error in admitting the results of these tests.

Next, the bus company argues that the trial court incorrectly admitted Baldwin's testimony because he had not qualified as an expert on Flexible buses. 2 Baldwin testified: (1) that he was [242 Va. 69] a general engineering consultant; (2) that approximately 10% of his 40-year experience had involved mechanical engineering problems, and that he currently was working with pneumatic, electric, and hydraulic control systems; and (3) that his knowledge of the bus' braking system was based on the manufacturer's maintenance and operator's manuals. Given this evidence, we cannot say that the trial court abused its discretion in permitting Baldwin to qualify as an expert witness. Noll v. Rahal, 219 Va. 795, 800-801, 250 S.E.2d 741, 744-45 (1979).


The bus company argues that Wilkerson did not establish a prima facie case of negligence because she must show more than that the accident resulted from one of two causes, for one of which the bus company is responsible and for the other of which it is not. At trial, the bus company contended that the evidence established: "(1) an inference of operator error; and (2) an inference of unexplained mechanical failure." (Emphasis added.) In support...

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9 cases
  • Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth. v. Davis, 90-753
    • United States
    • District of Columbia Court of Appeals of Columbia District
    • 3 Abril 1992
    ...written standards or authorities); Ventura v. Winegardner, 178 W.Va. 82, 357 S.E.2d 764 (1987); Greater Richmond Transit Co. v. Wilkerson, 242 Va. 65, 406 S.E.2d 28 (1991) (testimony of future lost income only reliable if "grounded upon facts specific to the individual whose loss is being c......
  • Jones v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth., 1:05CV11.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • 25 Julio 2005
    ...of the defendant carrier at the moment the injury sued upon was sustained. See, e.g., Greater Richmond Transit Co. v. Wilkerson, 242 Va. 65, 70, 406 S.E.2d 28 (1991); Tri-State Coach Corp. v. Stidham, 191 Va. 790, 795, 62 S.E.2d 894 (1951); Dressler, 132 Va. at 348, 111 S.E. 243. In this re......
  • Bocek v. Jga Assocs., LLC, 1:11-cv-0546 (JCC/JFA)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • 23 Marzo 2016 and of itself, is a common reason for discrediting an earnings estimation as speculative. See Greater Richmond Transit Co. v. Wilkerson, 242 Va. 65, 72, 406 S.E.2d 28, 33 (1991); Bulala v. Boyd, 239 Va. 218, 233, 389 S.E.2d 670, 677 (1990). In this case, Estabrook's reliance on salary fr......
  • Egan v. Butler, Record Nos. 141365
    • United States
    • Virginia Supreme Court of Virginia
    • 4 Junio 2015 history. E.g., Vasquez v. Mabini, 269 Va. 155, 160–61, 606 S.E.2d 809, 811–12 (2005) ; Greater Richmond Transit Co. v. Wilkerson, 242 Va. 65, 71–72, 406 S.E.2d 28, 33 (1991). The inverse of the principle expressed in these cases applies here: that is, a plaintiff's work history and qua......
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