Mobile Light & R. Co. v. Portiss

Decision Date11 November 1915
Docket Number1 Div. 864
Citation70 So. 136,195 Ala. 320
CourtAlabama Supreme Court

Appeal from Circuit Court, Mobile County; Samuel B. Browne, Judge.

Action by George Portiss against the Mobile Light & Railroad Company, for damages for killing a cow. Judgment for plaintiff, and defendant appeals. Transferred from the Court of Appeals under Act of April 18, 1911, § 6, p. 449 Affirmed.

Gregory L. & H.T. Smith and Hugh M. Caffey, Jr., all of Mobile, for appellant.

Charles W. Tompkins and J.H. Kirkpatrick, both of Mobile, for appellee.


The suit is for damages for the killing of appellee's cow by a street car, operated by the appellant, on Washington avenue, in Mobile, Ala. The complaint consisted of four counts. The second count, as amended, charged negligence to appellant's servants in the killing of the cow "after discovering it trying to cross said track;" the first and fourth counts charged wantonness. Appellant's demurrer to count 3 was sustained, and that to the fourth count was overruled. There were no demurrers to the first count.

1. Count 4 was as follows:

"Plaintiff claims of the defendant, the Mobile Light &amp Railroad Company, a corporation doing business in the city of Mobile and county of Mobile, state of Alabama, the sum of $150, damages upon the following facts. The defendant was operating a street railroad in the city of Mobile, Ala., on or about December 9, 1913; that on that date the track of said defendant for more than 100 yards, before reaching the point where said cow was killed was straight and the view unobstructed, and the defendant, its servants or agents operating said car, could have seen the peril of said cow by the exercise of due care and diligence, yet, notwithstanding this fact, the defendant, its agents or servants, wantonly ran the car upon said cow and killed it, on Washington avenue on the track of the Mobile Light & Railroad Company, to the damage of plaintiff in the sum of $150."

Appellant's demurrer thereto was:

"Because it does not show any duty on the part of the defendant towards the plaintiff not to be guilty of negligence in the operation of its said car."

The office of the demurrer is to specifically point out the defects in pleadings to which it is directed, that the opposite party may have the opportunity of curing the defect by amendment, and it may not be general. Code 1907, § 5340; L. & N.R.R. Co. v. Johnson, 162 Ala. 665, 50 So 300; St. Louis v. Phillips, 165 Ala. 504, 51 So. 638; Railway, Light & Power Co. v. O'Brien, 185 Ala. 617, 64 So. 343; Railway, Light & Power Co. v. Hatton, 187 Ala. 573, 65 So. 934.

In Birmingham Railway, Light & Power Co. v. Barrett, 179 Ala. 274, 60 So. 762, Mr. Justice Somerville says: "Where the complaint merely states the fact and res gestae of the injury, not imputing the defendant's negligence to them, and without specifying the negligent acts or omissions relied on, a general averment *** is sufficient." Bryant v. A.G.S.R.R. Co., 155 Ala. 368, 46 So. 484; B.R., L. & P. Co. v. Jordan, 170 Ala. 530, 54 So. 280; B.R., L. & P. Co. v. Gonzales, 183 Ala. 273, 61 So. 80.

The count was a general averment of the facts that caused the injury, and that the injury was the proximate result of defendant's negligence. The trial court committed no error in overruling defendant's demurrer to the fourth count of the complaint.

2. After the plaintiff had rested his case, he asked leave of the court to amend the second count of the complaint by changing the words, "after its discovery on the track," to the words, "discovering it trying to cross the track." This amendment, allowed over the objection of the defendant, was clearly within the lis pendens, and was obviously made to meet a slight variance in the evidence. Code 1907, § 5367 et seq.; Nash, Adm'r, v. Southern Railway Co., 136 Ala. 177, 33 So. 932, 96 Am.St.Rep. 19; Beavers, Adm'r, v. Hardie & Co., 59 Ala. 570; Floyd v. Wilson, 163 Ala. 283, 50 So. 122; 7 Mayf.Dig. p. 704. If the defendant thought it was prejudiced by such amendment, it should have asked the court for a continuance to meet this unexpected contingency. The amendment was not a departure. It introduced no new element of proof that might not have been expected and met by the defendant. There was no error in allowing the amendment.

3. The defendant then moved the court "to rule out the plaintiff's evidence on the ground that the plaintiff had not made out a prima facie case," and on this appeal presents for review the overruling of its motion. The ground for the motion, urged in the lower court, was that the--

"first, the second as amended, and the fourth counts, charged wanton injury of the plaintiff's cow, and that there was no evidence of wantonness to support these counts."

The motion was no doubt intended to raise the question of the right to test the sufficiency of the evidence by a motion to exclude all the evidence, rather than by a demurrer to the evidence. The motion to exclude is not embarrassed with admissions; while the demurrer to evidence admits the truth of the evidence, and of every inference and conclusion which a jury could legally deduce therefrom, and submits to the court the determination of the issue of fact between the parties as well as the law. Code 1907, § 5343; 6 Mayf.Dig. 373, § 102; Martin v. State, 62 Ala. 240; Gluck v. Cox, 90 Ala. 331, 8 So. 161; Cent. R. & B. Co. v. Roquemore, 96 Ala. 236, 11 So. 475; Curtis v. Daughdrill, 71 Ala. 590; Armstrong v. Armstrong, 29 Ala. 541; Foster v. McDonald, 5 Ala. 376; McGehee v. Greer, 7 Port. 537.

In Young v. Foster, 7 Port. 423, for the first time in this state the demurrer to the evidence was considered, and Mr. Justice Ormond declared that the court will not compel joinder unless the demurrant will admit on the record the truth of all the facts offered in evidence, and also every conclusion which the facts fairly conduce to prove.

In Gayle v. Cahawba & Marion Railroad Co., 8 Ala. 587, the court said:

"When evidence is objected to in the mass, as in this case, the objection will not be permitted to be taken in this court, so as to subject particular portions of it to a severe and searching criticism. *** The objection, when made in this general form, to all the testimony, is calculated to mislead, and ought as far as possible to be discouraged, unless it be in fact a demurrer to the evidence, by analogy to which alone indeed can this motion be sustained."

In Boyd v. Gilchrist, 15 Ala. 849, Chief Justice Collier treats the motion made to the sufficiency of the evidence as a demurrer, and adds that:

"All presumptions which a jury might legitimately draw against a party should be made against one who demurs to the evidence, and thus withdraws his case from them."

In Bryan v. State, 26 Ala. 65, Mr. Justice Goldthwaite says, on this question:

"If the defendant believes that the facts which the evidence conduces to prove would not be sufficient to maintain the action in a civil case, or make out the offense in a criminal prosecution, he may call upon the court to declare the law upon the facts, and this he does by a demurrer to the evidence."

Again, in Curtis v. Daughdrill, 71 Ala. 590, Chief Justice Brickell affirms:

"The well-defined rule of the common law that if parties voluntarily substitute the court for the jury, the court must render judgment against the party inviting it into the relation and province of the jury," etc.

We have adverted to the early judicial history of the demurrer to the evidence that later took shape in our statute to show that the party invoking the aid of the court to pass upon the sufficiency of his adversary's evidence withdraws his cause from the consideration of the jury, and substitutes the court as the judge of the facts under the law. That a trial court, on motion, may exclude all of the plaintiff's evidence when he has failed to establish a prima facie case has been affirmed by this court (M., J. & K.C.R.R. Co. v. Bromberg, Adm'r, 141 Ala. 258, 283, 37 So. 395); yet it has never been held that the trial court, on motion, can thus be compelled to pass upon the sufficiency of the evidence, or that its refusal is subject to review by this court. To so hold would substitute the motion to exclude all the evidence, for the demurrer to the evidence.

In Bromberg's Case, supra, it is declared:

"Where the evidence of the plaintiff fails to make a prima facie case, the motion to exclude would be proper, and this upon the idea of its immateriality."

In Scales v. C.I. & C. Co., 173 Ala. 639, 55 So. 821, there was a divided court, and Mr. Justice Simpson said: "In regard to the exclusion of the evidence on the part of the plaintiff, whether we follow the cases which hold that this is a proper proceeding, when the plaintiff has failed to make out a prima facie case, or adopt the suggestion in one of our cases that if it be a case in which the general charge could be properly given, it is error without injury, it matters not; the result being the same."

Mr Justice Mayfield, in his opinion, clearly shows that the result is not the same, but that the plaintiff is deprived of his right to have the court pass upon the sufficiency of all the evidence, and is often driven to an involuntary nonsuit and the bringing of another action, or to seek a review or this ruling by conforming to the requirements of the statute. Kemp v. Coxe, 14 Ala. 614; Lay v. P.T.C. Co., 171 Ala. 172, 54 So. 529; Long v. Holley, 157 Ala. 514, 47 So. 655; Rogers v. Jones, 51 Ala. 353. The defendant, by the motion, is given the advantage to know the mind of the court without exposing his evidence, and without--

"subjecting him [self] to any of the penalties which he would incur by pursuing the remedy given by s

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17 cases
  • Crawford v. Mills
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court
    • June 29, 1918
    ... ... title and parties" as those declared on in the original ... complaint. Mobile Light & R.R. Co. v. Portiss, 195 ... Ala. 320, 70 So. 136; Smith v. Bachus, 195 Ala. 8, ... 12, ... ...
  • Ex parte Hines
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court
    • June 10, 1920
    ... ... exception. This is the effect of our recent cases. Ex parte ... Mobile L. & R. Co., 201 Ala. 493, 78 So. 399; Britton v ... State, 15 Ala.App. 584, 74 So. 721; ... Cooke v. Graham, ... supra; Mobile L. & R. Co. v. Portiss, 195 Ala. 320, ... 323, 70 So. 136; Deason v. Gray, 189 Ala. 672, 66 ... So. 646; U.S., etc., Co ... ...
  • Birmingham & A. Ry. Co. v. Campbell
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court
    • April 17, 1919
    ... ... question and answer were not competent as a part of the res ... gestae of the injury. Mobile L. & R. Co. v. Portiss, ... 195 Ala. 320, 70 So. 136. Res gestae is "commonly said ... to have ... ...
  • Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Carter
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court
    • October 23, 1924
    ... ... of demurrer that were assigned. Mobile Light & R. Co. v ... Portiss, 195 Ala. 320, 332, 70 So. 136; Clinton Min ... Co. v. Bradford, ... ...
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