Hoekman v. Nelson, No. 21270.

CourtSupreme Court of South Dakota
Writing for the CourtGILBERTSON, Justice
Citation614 N.W.2d 821,2000 SD 99
PartiesAlvin HOEKMAN and Bette Hoekman, Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. Timothy NELSON and Federal Express Corporation, Defendants and Appellees.
Decision Date26 July 2000
Docket NumberNo. 21270.

614 N.W.2d 821
2000 SD 99

Alvin HOEKMAN and Bette Hoekman, Plaintiffs and Appellants,
v.
Timothy NELSON and Federal Express Corporation, Defendants and Appellees

No. 21270.

Supreme Court of South Dakota.

Argued May 31, 2000.

Decided July 26, 2000.


614 N.W.2d 822
Chad W. Swenson, A. Russell Janklow, Mathew T. Tobin of Johnson, Heidepriem, Miner, Marlow and Janklow, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Attorneys for plaintiffs and appellants

Mark Haigh, Melissa C. Hinton of Davenport, Evans, Hurwitz and Smith, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Attorneys for defendants and appellees.

GILBERTSON, Justice

[¶ 1.] In this personal injury action plaintiff Alvin Hoekman (Hoekman) appeals the circuit court's grant of summary judgment to defendant Federal Express Corp. (Federal Express), determining that while Federal Express owed a limited duty of care to him, Hoekman was contributorily negligent more than slight as a matter of law. We affirm on the basis that the duty of care of Federal Express in these circumstances extended only to ensure Hoekman's safe passage in front of the Federal Express vehicle.

FACTS AND PROCEDURE

[¶ 2.] On October 17, 1995, Hoekman was injured as he crossed South Burr Street in Mitchell, South Dakota. An employee with the Iverson Max automobile dealership in Mitchell, he had walked across the street to the Quick Fill Gas Station, and was returning to Iverson Max. Instead of crossing at the designated intersection approximately 100 feet away which contained traffic lights, Hoekman crossed the two southbound lanes of traffic on Burr Street and was standing in or next to the left-hand, northbound lane of traffic. While Hoekman was attempting to cross in the middle of the street, a northbound Federal Express truck, driven by James Reinholt, approached and came to a stop, as he believed he would have hit Hoekman with his side mirror if he had not stopped.

[¶ 3.] Reinholt signaled to Hoekman by waving his hand, which Hoekman interpreted to mean "[g]o ahead and pass in front of my vehicle." Hoekman began jogging across the remainder of Burr Street, but after safely passing in front of the Federal Express truck, he was struck in the adjacent outside lane of traffic by an on-coming northbound vehicle driven by Timothy Nelson. At no time did Hoekman look to see if there were any on-coming vehicles in the lane outside of the Federal Express truck. Reinholt testified he never saw Nelson prior to the impact with Hoekman.

[¶ 4.] The collision propelled Hoekman's body approximately 10 feet from the point of impact. Hoekman sustained a fractured left hip, fractured right leg, injuries to his elbows and shoulders, and his left femur was completely severed from the ball socket.

[¶ 5.] Hoekman brought a personal injury action against both Federal Express and Nelson. The complaint against Nelson was eventually dismissed for lack of timely service. Federal Express filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming: (1) its driver owed no duty of care to Hoekman beyond its own lane of travel; (2) its driver had not been negligent in giving the hand signal; and, (3) Hoekman was contributorily negligent more than slight. After a hearing, the circuit court granted the summary judgment motion of Federal Express, finding that while Federal Express owed a duty of care to Hoekman as he passed in front of the truck, Hoekman had been contributorily negligent as a matter of law. Hoekman appeals, raising the following issue for our consideration:

Whether the circuit court erred in granting summary judgment to Federal Express.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[¶ 6.] Our standard for reviewing the grant or denial of a summary judgment motion in actions which involve tort claims is well settled. This Court stated in Estate of Shuck v. Perkins County:

614 N.W.2d 823
Summary judgment is authorized "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." SDCL 15-6-56(c). We will affirm only when there are no genuine issues of material fact and the legal questions have been correctly decided. Bego v. Gordon, 407 N.W.2d 801, 804 (S.D.1987). All reasonable inferences drawn from the facts must be viewed in favor of the non-moving party. Morgan v. Baldwin, 450 N.W.2d 783, 785 (S.D.1990). The burden is on the moving party to clearly show an absence of any genuine issue of material fact and an entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Wilson v. Great N. Ry. Co., 83 S.D. 207, 212, 157 N.W.2d 19, 21 (1968)
[Julson v. Federated Mutual Insurance Company,] 1997 SD 43, ¶ 5, 562 N.W.2d 117, 119 (quoting Ford v. Moore, 1996 SD 112, ¶ 7, 552 N.W.2d 850, 852); accord VerBouwens v. Hamm Wood Prods., 334 N.W.2d 874, 876 (S.D.1983).

1998 SD 32, ¶ 6, 577 N.W.2d 584, 586. Although we may not agree with the rationale of the circuit court, we will uphold summary judgment if there is a valid basis to do so. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. v. Schilling, 520 N.W.2d 884, 886 (S.D.1994) (citing King v. John Hancock Mut. Life Ins. Co., 500 N.W.2d 619, 621 (S.D.1993)).

ANALYSIS AND DECISION

[¶ 7.] The Extent of the Duty of Federal Express Towards Hoekman.1

[¶ 8.] Whether a duty exists is typically a matter of law to be decided by the court, not a jury. Tipton v. Town of Tabor, 538 N.W.2d 783, 785 (S.D.1995). "A duty, in negligence cases, may be defined as an obligation, to which the law will give recognition and effect, to conform to a particular standard of conduct toward another." Tipton v. Town of Tabor, 1997 SD 96, ¶ 12, 567 N.W.2d 351, 357 (citing W. Page Keeton, et al., Prosser & Keeton on the Law of Torts § 53, at 356 (5th ed. 1984)); 57A Am.Jur.2d Negligence § 83. In order to maintain a negligence action and before a defendant can be found negligent, a plaintiff must prove a duty existed from the defendant to the plaintiff. See Poelstra v. Basin Elec. Power Co-op., 1996 SD 36, ¶ 7, 545 N.W.2d 823, 825 (stating "[t]he existence of a duty owed by the defendant to the plaintiff ... is elemental to a negligence action."); Yankton Prod. Credit Ass'n. v. Jensen, 416 N.W.2d 860, 864 (S.D.1987) (noting that "[t]he first requirement for an action in negligence is to establish that a duty exists.... "); Barger for Wares v. Cox, 372 N.W.2d 161, 167 (S.D.1985) (stating "the existence of a duty of care on the part of a defendant to a plaintiff is an essential element of a negligence action.").

[¶ 9.] The dispositive issue in this case is: does a genuine issue of material fact exist whether the Federal Express driver owed Hoekman a duty, and was thus negligent, in giving him a hand signal. Federal Express contends that it did not owe Hoekman a duty of care once he safely passed in front of the truck, that the driver's signal merely signified a yielding of its driver's right-of-way and that the signal could not have been reasonably interpreted as a representation that Hoekman could safely proceed across the entire remainder of the street. Hoekman argues Federal Express owed him a duty of care to assure his safety across the street after giving the hand signal, and whether Federal Express breached that duty is a question of fact for the jury to decide. He also argues the meaning of the Federal Express driver's hand signal is a question of fact to be

614 N.W.2d 824
resolved by a jury.2

[¶ 10.] Whether a driver of a motor vehicle can be held to be negligent in giving this type of...

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14 practice notes
  • DRD Enterprises, LLC v. Flickema, No. 25595.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • 4 d2 Janeiro d2 2011
    ...of the circuit court, we will uphold summary judgment if there is a valid basis to do so." Hoekman v. Nelson, 2000 S.D. 99, ¶ 6, 614 N.W.2d 821, 823. "[A] trial court may still be upheld if it reached the right result for the wrong reason." Schmiedt v. Loewen, 2010 S.D. 76, ¶......
  • Gilmer v. Ellington, No. B194605.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 23 d3 Janeiro d3 2008
    ...of that driver's vehicle when the pedestrian is thereafter hit by a vehicle in another lane of traffic. For example, in Hoekman, supra, 614 N.W.2d 821, the plaintiff-pedestrian was standing in the middle of the street after crossing two lanes of southbound traffic and waiting to cross two l......
  • Drd Enter.s LLC v. Flickema, 2010 S.D. 88
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • 18 d4 Novembro d4 2010
    ...the circuit court, we will uphold summary judgment if there is a valid basis to do so." Hoekman v.Page 17 Nelson, 2000 S.D. 99, ¶ 6, 614 N.W.2d 821, 823. "[A] trial court may still be upheld if it reached the right result for the wrong reason." Schmiedt v. Loewen, 2010 S.D. 7......
  • Overfield v. American Underwriters, No. 21211.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • 26 d3 Julho d3 2000
    ...construing an ambiguous contract against the draftsman, was accurate). [¶ 27.] KONENKAMP, Justice, joins this concurrence in result. 614 N.W.2d 821 MILLER, Chief Justice (concurring in [¶ 28.] Although I agree with Justice Sabers' special writing, I cannot join the last paragraph. The langu......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
14 cases
  • DRD Enterprises, LLC v. Flickema, No. 25595.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • 4 d2 Janeiro d2 2011
    ...of the circuit court, we will uphold summary judgment if there is a valid basis to do so." Hoekman v. Nelson, 2000 S.D. 99, ¶ 6, 614 N.W.2d 821, 823. "[A] trial court may still be upheld if it reached the right result for the wrong reason." Schmiedt v. Loewen, 2010 S.D. 76, ¶ 20 n. 3, 789 N......
  • Gilmer v. Ellington, No. B194605.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 23 d3 Janeiro d3 2008
    ...of that driver's vehicle when the pedestrian is thereafter hit by a vehicle in another lane of traffic. For example, in Hoekman, supra, 614 N.W.2d 821, the plaintiff-pedestrian was standing in the middle of the street after crossing two lanes of southbound traffic and waiting to cross two l......
  • Drd Enter.s LLC v. Flickema, 2010 S.D. 88
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • 18 d4 Novembro d4 2010
    ...of the circuit court, we will uphold summary judgment if there is a valid basis to do so." Hoekman v.Page 17 Nelson, 2000 S.D. 99, ¶ 6, 614 N.W.2d 821, 823. "[A] trial court may still be upheld if it reached the right result for the wrong reason." Schmiedt v. Loewen, 2010 S.D. 76, ¶ 20 n.3,......
  • Overfield v. American Underwriters, No. 21211.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • 26 d3 Julho d3 2000
    ...construing an ambiguous contract against the draftsman, was accurate). [¶ 27.] KONENKAMP, Justice, joins this concurrence in result. 614 N.W.2d 821 MILLER, Chief Justice (concurring in [¶ 28.] Although I agree with Justice Sabers' special writing, I cannot join the last paragraph. The langu......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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