Meaney v. Doyle

Decision Date26 June 1931
Citation177 N.E. 6,276 Mass. 218
PartiesMEANEY v. DOYLE (two cases).
CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court


Exceptions from Superior Court, Essex County; A. E. Pinanski, Judge.

Two separate actions by Jenny Meaney and by David T. Meaney against Edwin J. Doyle. Verdict for plaintiff in each case. On defendant's exceptions.

Exceptions overruled.

J. J. Ronan, of Salem (M. J. Reardon, of Salem, on the brief), for plaintiffs.

R. E. Blake, of Salem, for defendant.


The female plaintiff was injured while riding as the guest of the defendant in an automobile driven by him. To recover she must show that he was grossly negligent. It must appear that the accident was due to something more than simple carelessness, something which has in it elements of ‘indifference to present legal duty,’ of ‘utter forgetfulness of legal obligations so far as other persons may be affected,’ of ‘heedless and palpable violation of legal duty respecting the rights of others,’ of ‘manifestly smaller amount of watchfulness and circumspection than the circumstances require of a person of ordinary prudence,’ of ‘the omission of even such diligence as habitually inattentive and careless men do not fail to exercise in avoiding danger to their own person or property.’ Altman v. Aronson, 231 Mass. 588, 121 N. E. 505, 506, 4 A. L. R. 1185, passim Dzura v. Phillips (Mass.) 175 N. E. 629. Ordinarily no one element of conduct can be ruled to constitute gross negligence. See McKenna v. Smith (Mass.) 175 N. E. 474. Every act or omission entering into a particular happening must be considered in connection with all the other circumstances before the whole can properly be held to be an instance of gross negligence. Here the evidence would support findings that on a dark night, at a place where the defendant knew the somewhat narrow travelled way to be about three feet higher than the land at the sides and to be guarded by boulders on either side placed somewhat apart to safeguard travel, which it would be dangerous to strike; where the window of his sedan was open, admitting a wind which to his knowledge had blown sparks from a cigarette which he had been smoking upon the plaintiff, as she sat behind him, causing her annoyance, as he knew, not only because of possible injury to her clothing but also from fear lest it distract his attention from the road; while moving at a rate of twenty-five miles per hour; taking his eyes from the road, the defendant lit another cigarette, turned toward her, inquired about sparks again flying in her direction and did not turn back to see where he was going before his automobile veered to its right and struck upon the boulders. Testimony that the solidly embedded boulder was moved twenty feet would support an inference of no little velocity of the automobile. We cannot say, as matter of law, that this combination of circumstances will not support a finding of gross negligence-of a shockingly smaller amount of watch fulness and circumspection than the circumstances required of a person of ordinary prudence. We have recently held that one keeping his eyes on a wrist watch rather than on the road, and pressing forward with knowledge of dangerous conditions, might be found to be grossly negligent. Kirby v. Keating (Mass.) 171 N. E. 671. Cases like Burke v. Cook, 246 Mass. 518, 141 N. E. 585;Shriear v. Feigelson, 248 Mass. 432, 143 N. E. 307;Marcienowski v. Sanders, 252 Mass. 65,145 N....

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69 cases
  • Wilkey v. State ex rel. Smith, 6 Div. 603.
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court
    • December 21, 1939
    ... ... The ... rule lately announced by the Massachusetts Court in ... Meeney v. Doyle, 276 Mass. 218, 177 N.E. 6, is that ... a trial court has the power, in a proper case, to direct a ... verdict at the close of the opening ... ...
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