Hartman v. Kruse, 49470

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Citation91 N.W.2d 688,249 Iowa 1320
Docket NumberNo. 49470,49470
PartiesRonald H. HARTMAN, a Minor, by Alfred Hartman, His Father, Appellee, v. Wendell KRUSE and Louis Kruse, Appellants.
Decision Date28 July 1958

Murray & Murray, Sheldon, and Roseberry & Down, LeMars, for appellants.

Orville A. Hames, Ramsen, and Thomas L. McCullough, Sac City, for appellee.


Plaintiff, a minor, in an action brought in his behalf by his father, sought recovery under the guest statute for personal injuries received in an automobile accident. It occurred at night at a T intersection of a graveled country road and a blacktop numbered highway. Defendants' motions for a directed verdict were overruled and upon submission of the cause to the jury a verdict was returned against them. Later defendants' motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and for new trial were overruled. They have appealed.

Ronald H. Hartman, the plaintiff, was 17 years of age at the time of the accident which occurred on April 2, 1956. He and the defendant, Wendell Kruse, lived with their respective parents on nearby farms in Plymouth County, Iowa. They are related by marriage.

The plaintiff had attended a national guard drill at LeMars on the evening of the accident. Later the young men went to the plaintiff's home. The defendant, Wendell Kruse, was driving his father's car. Shortly after 10 o'clock p. m. they left the Hartman home in the Kruse car to attend a dance at Akron, approximately 12 miles away. They drove west over a graveled hilly road to where the accident occurred some 10 miles from the Hartman home. The Kruse boy when he observed the nature of the intersection he was approaching endeavored to turn and guide the car as to avoid striking a railroad embankment and a telephone pole across the road to the west. The car rolled over once as it skidded into the ditch and landed on its wheels. Both boys were thrown out on the right hand side.

Inasmuch as the plaintiff contends the Kruse boy was driving the car in a reckless manner at the time of the accident and over the road they had traveled we deem it advisable to relate the testimony concerning the manner in which the car was driven from the time it left the Hartman farm until it entered the T intersection. Two of several intervening north and south roads between the Hartman home and Highway 12 where the accident occurred were marked with stop signs. The first intervening road which had a stop sign was about one and one-half miles west of the Hartman home, and is known as Highway No. 29. The second road which had a stop sign was about one and six-tenths miles east of the place of the accident. There is testimony by the plaintiff the Kruse boy stopped his car at the first stop sign. He also testified the defendant, Wendell Kruse, increased his speed after crossing the last referred to highway and he observed the speedometer indicated a speed of 85 miles per hour when they reached a bridge about five and one-half miles from the Hartman home and about four and one-half miles from the place of the accident. This rate of speed is denied by the defendant but under our established holdings we are to consider the testimony of the plaintiff in the light most favorable to him in considering a motion for a directed verdict. There is testimony on the part of the plaintiff he asked the defendant to slow down, that the defendant laughed and said: 'I know how to drive this car.' He also testified Wendell said he was going to overhaul the car in two weeks and he didn't care if he did drive the heck out of it. These statements were made approximately four and one-half miles east of where the accident took place.

There is a hill about a quarter of mile from the T intersection on Highway 12 where the accident occurred. There is a stop sign at this road. The defendant driver testified he first observed the stop sign after the car had leveled off at the bottom of the hill and the lights of his car illuminated it. He was then about 100 feet away from the sign and he then put on his brakes. The plaintiff twice gave testimony the defendant 'slammed on his brakes'. The car skidded on into the intersection and continued another 62 feet to the west shoulder of Highway No. 12. It then rolled over. When the car came to rest Wendell, the driver, was lying on the ground about three feet from the car and the plaintiff was about ten feet from it.

The plaintiff in his amended and substituted petition based his claim on recklessness in the main upon the claimed dangerous rate of speed the car driven by the defendant, Wendell Kruse, at and prior to the time of the accident and alleged the automobile was driven at a speed of between 80 and 85 miles an hour to a point where the road on which the defendant was driving ended. It is further alleged that the driver of the car failed to have the automobile under control when he drove into the T intersection previously mentioned.

In connection with these allegations of the petition it should be noted the plaintiff did not testify as to any particular rate of speed after the occupants of the car had passed the bridge some four and a half miles east of Highway Number 12. The only testimony given by the plaintiff relative to the movement of the car after it passed the bridge is as follows:

'* * * Then we came to this next stop sign. Wendell just slammed on his brakes. He didn't stop. He just slammed it in second and went right on across. * * * After Wendell Kruse passed this second stop sign I said 'Wendell, we should have stopped at this stop sign.' He just said, 'Yeah, I guess so,' and just took right off and kept right on going. After that point the road was still hilly.

'Q. What happened after that, if anything? A. Well, I was scared. I didn't know what to do. And he came over this last hill and as the car started to go down I shut my eyes because I didn't know what to do. The next thing I knew he hit his brakes.

'Q. Did you have your eyes closed at the time that he hit his brakes? A. No. I opened them up and there was the black-top right ahead of us.

'Q. Well, what if anything did you see at that point. A. As soon as I seen the black-top I blacked right out.'

I. The initial question for our determination is whether the facts heretofore set forth generate a jury question relative to the claimed recklessness of the defendant driver. We have set out such parts of the plaintiff's testimony which, interpreted in the light most favorable to him, must be considered in determining whether it discloses '* * * a situation from which reasonable men might draw an inference of 'no care, coupled with disregard for consequences'.' Anderson v. Elliott, 244 Iowa 670, 677, 57 N.W.2d 792, 795. We have said 'The evidence must disclose something from which recklessness could be legitimately inferred, * * *.' Wilde v. Griffel, 214 Iowa 1177, 1180, 243 N.W. 159, 160; Goetsch v. Matheson, 246 Iowa 800, 806, 68 N.W.2d 77.

However, in order that the action and conduct of the driver of a car can be classified as reckless '* * * it must be such as to manifest a heedless disregard or indifference to the rights of others; * * * '. Wilde v. Griffel, supra. We have also held in order to show recklessness there must be evidence of (1) '* * * no care, coupled with disregard for consequences. * * *', (2) there must be evidence a driver '* * * had actual knowledge of an existing danger, or there was a danger so obvious that he should be cognizant of it, and proceeded without any heed of or concern for the consequences. * * *'; and (3) '* * * the consequences of the actions of the driver are such that the occurrence of the catastrophe is a probability rather than a possibility. * * *' Fritz v. Wohler, 247 Iowa 1039, 78 N.W.2d 27, 28, and cases cited.

II. As heretofore shown the defendant driver failed to stop at the intersecting road and stop sign approximately one and six-tenths miles from the road where the accident occurred. It was after the car had passed this stop sign the plaintiff made the ramark previously quoted and the defendant replied as heretofore set out. We do not believe the statement of the plaintiff can be interpreted as amounting to a protest or a complaint relative to an excessive rate of speed. Neither can we interpret the reply of the defendant driver as indicating a mental attitude of indifference to and a complete disregard for consequences.

In Goodman v. Gonse, 247 Iowa 1091, 76 N.W.2d 873, 876, the plaintiff introduced testimony that shortly before the accident there considered one of the occupants of the car said to the driver he was 'driving too fast' and in reply the driver said: 'Shut your month, I don't like back seat drivers, you can get up here and drive.' We made no extensive comment about these remarks in the opinion but upon all the evidence in the plaintiff's case we held there was not sufficient showing from which an inference of recklessness might be drawn.

III. We should also consider whether there is evidence of '* * * no care, coupled with disregard for consequences'. In the present case there is undenied evidence the defendant driver, as soon as he observed the stop sign at the Highway 12 T intersection, put on the brakes of his car. It was then 100 feet from the stop sign. From this point it skidded into the intersection and then proceeded another 62 feet to the west shoulder of Highway 12 and rolled over. As the car skidded into the highway the defendant driver, according to his testimony: '* * * thought I had better straighten it out and it kept going. Then I thought, well, there is a telephone pole straight ahead and a big embankment--a low embankment, but I didn't want to hit that so I tried to turn to the left.'

We are unable to conclude the driver's actions showed '* * * acts utterly inconsistent with prudence or proper regard for the safety of the guest in his car, from which the inference could be...

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3 cases
  • Pieper v. Harmeyer, 2--56966
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 12 Noviembre 1975
    ...and conduct immediately prior to and at the time of the accident.' Descriptive of such attitude is this statement in Hartman v. Kruse, 249 Iowa 1320, 1328, 91 N.W.2d 688, 692 (1958): 'It is when a driver has conscious knowledge of a dangerous situation and then does not exercise the slighte......
  • State v. McLaughlin, 49495
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 13 Enero 1959
    ...for a directed verdict for defendant in a civil case based upon a charge of recklessness. That decision, Hartman v. Kruse, 249 Iowa ----, 91 N.W.2d 688, 691, 'We should also consider whether there is evidence of '* * * no care, coupled with disregard for consequences'. In the present case t......
  • Evans v. Howard R. Green Co., s. 2--56401
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 31 Julio 1975
    ...circumstances it is appropriate for us to determine the indemnity question and direct final judgment accordingly. See Hartman v. Kruse, 249 Iowa 1320, 91 N.W.2d 688 VI. It might be noted Green's position may well be untenable under the rule an indemnity agreement generally will not be const......

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