McIntire v. Winn Dixie Greenville, Inc., No. 21305

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtLEWIS
Citation270 S.E.2d 440,275 S.C. 323
PartiesEsther R. McINTIRE, Respondent, v. WINN DIXIE GREENVILLE, INC., Appellant.
Decision Date17 September 1980
Docket NumberNo. 21305

Page 440

270 S.E.2d 440
275 S.C. 323
Esther R. McINTIRE, Respondent,
v.
WINN DIXIE GREENVILLE, INC., Appellant.
No. 21305.
Supreme Court of South Carolina.
Sept. 17, 1980.

[275 S.C. 324] Love, Thornton, Arnold & Thomason, Greenville, for appellant.

Foster, Covington & Patrick, Greenville, for respondent.

LEWIS, Chief Justice:

The dispositive issue in this case concerns the admission of testimony relating to the payment of medical bills by the defendant. We reverse.

The respondent initiated this action to recover for injuries received while shopping at the appellant's store. As she approached the check-out counter, a can of ham fell from the conveyor belt and struck her foot. The next day, she called the store manager and their conversation is the subject of the appellant's challenge. The testimony, admitted over the appellant's objection, was as follows:

Q. Go ahead, Mrs. McIntire, what was the substance of that conversation?

A. Okay, Mr. Coffee said he was the Manager. He had note of the accident on his desk and he gave me a phone number to call and that they would take care of my medical bills that I had.

After a verdict for the respondent, the appellant moved for a new trial. The trial judge in denying the motion, reasoned that since the manager did not explain the note nor deny liability, it was inferable his conduct was the result of an admission. In so ruling, he erred.

Page 441

We recently held in Crosby v. Southeast Zayre, Inc., 265 S.E.2d 517, (S.C., 1980):

[275 S.C. 325] As a general rule, evidence of payment of medical bills by the defendant is inadmissible. Howell v. Hairston, 261 S.C. 292, 199 S.E.2d 766; 'unless the surrounding circumstances indicate an admission of liability rather than an act of benevolence.' 31A C.J.S., Evidence, Section 291, p. 743.

Knowledge of the accident and the mere failure of the manager to comment on liability, standing alone, are insufficient to qualify the conversation for admission. They fail to reasonably show an admission of liability rather than other, equally tenable, motivations.

The only other question which we need consider is that challenging the sufficiency of the evidence to show actionable negligence on the part of appellant.

The evidence gives rise to the reasonable inference that respondent was injured as the result of the negligence of appellant's employee in operating the conveyor belt on its check-out counter. It appears that a customer immediately in front of respondent...

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1 practice notes
  • Hall v. Palmetto Enterprises II, Inc., of Clinton, No. 0189
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 2 Marzo 1984
    ...offer by the defendant to pay medical bills is ordinarily not admissible to prove liability. See McIntire v. Winn-Dixie Greenville, Inc., 275 S.C. 323, 270 S.E.2d 440 (1980); Crosby v. Southeast Zayre, Inc., 274 S.C. 519, 265 S.E.2d 517 (1980); 31A C.J.S. [282 S.C. 92] Evidence § 291 at 743......
1 cases
  • Hall v. Palmetto Enterprises II, Inc., of Clinton, No. 0189
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 2 Marzo 1984
    ...offer by the defendant to pay medical bills is ordinarily not admissible to prove liability. See McIntire v. Winn-Dixie Greenville, Inc., 275 S.C. 323, 270 S.E.2d 440 (1980); Crosby v. Southeast Zayre, Inc., 274 S.C. 519, 265 S.E.2d 517 (1980); 31A C.J.S. [282 S.C. 92] Evidence § 291 at 743......

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