Harper v. Plunkett

Citation176 S.E.2d 187,122 Ga.App. 63
Decision Date26 May 1970
Docket NumberNo. 44987,Nos. 1,2,3,44987,s. 1
PartiesGladys R. N. HARPER v. M. C. PLUNKETT
CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Georgia)

Syllabus by the Court

As all questions of negligence are for the jury's determination except in plain and palpable cases, and this is not one of the exceptions, the lower court did not err in denying summary judgment.

This is a rear-end collision case of alleged negligence in which the plaintiff as a passenger in the front automobile is injured as a result of the collision and seeks judgment against the driver of the rear car. The plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment based on the position that there was no genuine issue of material fact regarding the issue of liability based upon all pleadings and depositions in the record. The court denied summary judgment, but granted a certification for immediate review. Error is enumerated on the denial of the motion for summary judgment.

Payne, Barlow & Green, William O. Green, Jr., Austell, for appellant.

Noland & Coney, John L. Coney, Douglasville, for appellee.

EVANS, Judge.

The evidence shows defendant's automobile was following the car in which the plaintiff was riding and that the line of traffic ahead stopped suddenly, causing the car plaintiff was in to stop suddenly, and defendant misjudged the distance between the cars and ran into the rear of the preceding automobile.

Evidence was adduced from the defendant, while his deposition was being taken, that he made an admission against interest at the scene of the collision to the policeman, to the effect that the collision was his fault.

The question of negligence should have been submitted to a jury. It has been held time and again that all questions of negligence are for the jury's determination except in plain and palpable cases. Parker v. Johnson, 97 Ga.App. 261(1), 102 S.E.2d 917; Long Construction Co. v. Ryals, 102 Ga.App. 66(1), 115 S.E.2d 726, and cit. It is true that Code Ann. § 68-1626(a) (Ga.L.1953, Nov.Sess., pp. 556, 577, as last amended by Ga.L.1968, pp. 1427, 1428, 1429) provides that 'In every event speed shall be so controlled as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any person, vehicle or other conveyance on or entering the highway in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of all persons to use due care.' But in construing this statute, our appellate courts have held that no absolute duty is imposed upon the driver of a following vehicle to avoid colliding with the automobile immediately ahead of him, by the control of speed or otherwise, but that all the facts and circumstances are to be taken into consideration so it may be determined where the negligence lies. Underwood v. Atlanta &c. R. Co., 106 Ga.App. 467, 127 S.E.2d 318; Hay v. Carter, 94 Ga.App. 382, 384, 94 S.E.2d 755; Flanigan v. Reville, 107 Ga.App. 382, 130 S.E.2d 258.

In Malcom v. Malcolm, 112 Ga.App. 151, 155, 144 S.E.2d 188, the trial court had granted summary judgment in favor of the driver of the leading vehicle, and this court reversed and held:

'As pointed out in Flanigan v. Reville, 107 Ga.App. 382, 130 S.E.2d 258, supra, neither Code Ann. § 68-1641, nor Code Ann. § 68-1626, 'nor any other provision of law of which we are aware, places an absolute duty on any driver to avoid a collision. All the circumstances and conditions at the time and place including the conduct of other drivers, must be taken into account.' The court thus held in that case that it was not abstractly incorrect to charge the jury that: 'A leading vehicle has no absolute legal position superior to that of one following.' In Hay v. Carter, 94 Ga.App. 382, 384, 94 S.E.2d 755, 757, supra, this court quoted from Cardell v. Tennessee Electric Power Co., 5 Cir., 79 F.2d 934, 936, as follows: 'All drivers of vehicles using the highways are held to the evercise of due care. A leading vehicle has no absolute legal position superior to that of one following. Each driver must exercise ordinary care in the situation in which he finds himself. The driver of the leading vehicle must exercise ordinary care not to stop, slow up, nor swerve from his course without adequate warning to the following vehicles of his intention so to do. The driver of the following vehicle, in his turn, must exercise ordinary care to avoid collision with vehicles, both in front and those behind him.' This court held in the Hay case, supra, that: 'It follows that the mere fact that one vehicle is struck in its rear, while another is not struck, is not sufficient to fix liability on the driver of either vehicle.' And in the Hargrove case, supra, (Hargrove v. Tanner, 98 Ga.App. 16, 104 S.E.2d 665) is was specifically pointed out that the issue of whether one of the parties was following too closely should be left to the jury.

'Nor was the defendant precluded as a matter of law from having the issue of his negligence determined by a jury because of his plea of guilty in traffic court to the charge of following too closely. 'The rule, as to parties to a suit, is that, while convictions for criminal offenses are inadmissible in a civil action of this kind, a plea of guilty may be shown as an admission against interest.' Akin v. Randolph Motors, Inc., 95 Ga.App. 841, 848, 99 S.E.2d 358, 364.

Such admission, however, 'is only a circumstance to be considered along with all the other evidence in the civil action for damages,' and is not conclusive of the fact that the defendant was negligent. Roper v. Scott, 77 Ga.App. 120, 124, 48 S.E.2d 118, 121. See Dixon v. Cassels Co., 34 Ga.App. 478, 130 S.E. 75; Green, Georgia Law of Evidence, § 238, p. 526.'

To the same effect, see Thomason v. Willingham, 118 Ga.App. 821, 823, 165 S.E.2d 865. Further, the admission, under Code § 38-420, must be scanned with care, and as evidence, it is the duty of the jury alone to weigh it. Smith...

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  • Atlanta Coca-Cola Bottling Co. v. Jones, COCA-COLA
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • June 18, 1975
    ...is that he is required to exercise ordinary care and drive his vehicle in the manner of an ordinarily prudent man.' Harper v. Plunkett, 122 Ga.App. 63, 176 S.E.2d 187, is not controlling since there the evidence showed that the plaintiff may have been negligent in following too closely and ......
  • Johnson v. Curenton
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • December 1, 1972
    ...verdict as to liability. Appellant's able advocate contends the case here is controlled by the rulings of this court in Harper v. Plunkett, 122 Ga.App. 63, 176 S.E.2d 187 and Roesler v. Etheridge, 125 Ga.App. 358, 187 S.E.2d 572. Both of these cases involved rear-end collisions including a ......
  • Atlanta Coca-Cola Bottling Co. v. Jones
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • March 11, 1976
    ...summary judgment cases affirmed on the same principle as the directed verdict cases. The Johnson opinion distinguished Harper v. Plunkett, 122 Ga.App. 63, 176 S.E.2d 187 and Roesler v. Etheridge, 125 Ga.App. 358, 187 S.E.2d 572 on factual differences, but then said: 'We prefer however to di......
  • Brown v. SSA Atl., Civil Action 4:19-cv-00303
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Georgia
    • August 3, 2021
    ...... cases.”) (alteration in original) (quoting Bussey. v. Dawson , 160 S.E.2d 834, 836 (Ga. 1968)); Harper. v. Plunkett , 176 S.E.2d 187, 188 (Ga.Ct.App. 1970). (“It has been held time and again that all questions of. negligence are for ......
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