Ott v. Pittman, No. 2398

CourtCourt of Appeals of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtSHAW; HOWELL, C.J., and CONNOR
Citation463 S.E.2d 101,320 S.C. 72
PartiesHarry OTT, Jr., Respondent, v. Steve PITTMAN, Appellant. . Heard
Docket NumberNo. 2398
Decision Date13 September 1995

Page 101

463 S.E.2d 101
320 S.C. 72
Harry OTT, Jr., Respondent,
v.
Steve PITTMAN, Appellant.
No. 2398.
Court of Appeals of South Carolina.
Heard Sept. 13, 1995.
Decided Oct. 16, 1995.

Page 103

[320 S.C. 74] John G. Felder, of Felder, Prickett & Mizzell, St. Matthews; and Robert J. Thomas, of Sherrill & Rogers, Columbia, for appellant.

Sherod H. Eadon, Jr., of Lee, Eadon, Isgett & Popwell, Columbia, for respondent.

SHAW, Judge:

A Calhoun County jury awarded Ott actual damages of $19,800.00 against Pittman whom the jury found 90% negligent in the shooting of Ott's two coonhounds, one of which died. 1 We affirm.

Ott sought actual and punitive damages against Pittman for wilfully and maliciously shooting and killing one and severely[320 S.C. 75] wounding another of his champion Treeing Walker Coonhounds on the night of January 30, 1992. Ott and some friends had released their hounds to hunt on the property adjacent to property owned by Sam Reid, Sr., the father-in-law of Mr. Pittman. The hounds were wearing reflective collars and collars with antenna attached to them for tracking. The hounds trailed a raccoon onto the Reid property. Ott testified the hounds treed the coon and, as they proceeded up a hill after the dogs, they heard gunshots and a dog screaming. Pittman testified the hounds were in his hog pasture and the hogs were screaming in distress. Ott testified he heard no sounds from any livestock.

Pittman admitted he shot Ott's dogs. However, he argued he acted reasonably in protecting his pregnant sows against the trespassing dogs, and Ott's own negligence in permitting his dogs to trespass on Pittman's property was the proximate cause of the dogs' injuries. Pittman counterclaimed for damages he sustained as a result of the dogs' actions. He alleged the trespassing dogs greatly disturbed his pregnant sows causing them to miscarry their offspring, thus reducing Pittman's hog production for that season with resulting economic losses. Pittman also alleged Ott maliciously prosecuted Pittman by instituting criminal charges against Pittman for killing an identifiable dog without just cause 2 of which Pittman was acquitted, and malicious injury to personal property 3 which was no billed. Pittman's counterclaims are not a part of this appeal.

Pittman contends the trial judge made numerous errors. He claims the trial judge erred in excluding two potential jurors because they had been previously represented by one of Pittman's attorneys, and in admitting the testimony of Guy Morton Rich and Richard H. Rentz, Jr. because they should not have been qualified as expert witnesses in the respective fields of coonhound valuation and pasture hog farming. He also alleges the trial judge erred in his charge to the jury on [320 S.C. 76] comparative negligence, and in excluding the prior testimony of a witness from the aforementioned criminal trial when the witness was very ill and unable to attend the civil trial. Pittman further contends Ott's admitted violation of two statutes barred his recovery.

I. EXCLUSION OF JURORS

Based on the record before this court, it appears Pittman failed to object when the trial judge excused the potential jurors in question. Therefore, this issue is not properly preserved and cannot be raised on appeal. Thompson v. O'Rourke, 288 S.C. 13, 339 S.E.2d 505 (1986). However, even if this issue were properly preserved, the conduct

Page 104

of the voir dire examination is within the trial judge's discretion. Whether the relationship between an attorney and a prospective juror is grounds for disqualification depends on the facts and circumstances of each case. Crosby v. Southeast Zayre, Inc., 274 S.C. 519, 265 S.E.2d 517 (1980). The trial judge conducted an extensive voir dire of the jury panel. The dismissed jurors had both been represented by Pittman's attorney in the recent past. In light of the particular circumstances of this case, we find no abuse of discretion in dismissing the potential jurors from the panel.

II. EXPERT TESTIMONY

Pittman contends the trial judge erred when he admitted the testimony of Guy Morton Rich as an expert witness in valuing coonhounds. The qualification of a witness as an expert falls largely within the sound discretion of the trial judge. State v. Schumpert, 312 S.C. 502, 435 S.E.2d 859 (1993). To be competent as an expert, a witness must have acquired by reason of study or experience or both such knowledge and skill in a business, profession, or science that he is better qualified than the jury to form an opinion on the particular subject of his testimony. Gooding v. St. Francis Xavier Hospital, 317 S.C. 320, 454 S.E.2d 328 (Ct.App.1995). Defects in the amount and quality of education or experience go to the weight of the expert's testimony and not its admissibility. Schumpert, supra. Rich is a trainer of hunting dogs and personally trained Ott's dog that was killed. Rich testified he reads three different magazines which give him a [320 S.C. 77] basis for forming an opinion on the value of coonhounds. He has been hunting with coonhounds for almost 70 years, and has hunted competitively in KC and AKC competitions. We hold the trial judge did not abuse his discretion in qualifying Rich as an expert in the field of valuing coonhounds.

Pittman also contends Rich failed to give an opinion as to the fair market...

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12 practice notes
  • Estate of Haley ex rel. Haley v. Brown, No. 4140.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 24 Julio 2006
    ...517 (1986). Nelson, 303 S.C. at 244-45, 399 S.E.2d at 784 (footnote omitted). This Court further discussed the doctrine in Ott v. Pittman, 320 S.C. 72, 463 S.E.2d 101 If a plaintiff was negligent as a matter of law, and that negligence proximately caused the injury complained of, under the ......
  • Lydia v. Horton, No. 3256.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 30 Octubre 2000
    ...Comparison of a plaintiff's negligence with that of the defendant is a question of fact for the jury to decide. See, e.g., Ott v. Pittman, 320 S.C. 72, 80, 463 S.E.2d 101, 106 (Ct.App.1995)(citing trial judge's statement that "because this was a comparative negligence case, even if the plai......
  • Fields v. REGIONAL MED. CENTER ORANGEBURG, No. 3623.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 14 Abril 2003
    ...the fact finder to form an opinion. Gooding v. St. Francis Xavier Hosp., 326 S.C. 248, 252-53, 487 S.E.2d 596, 598 (1997); Ott v. Pittman, 320 S.C. 72, 76, 463 S.E.2d 101, 104 (Ct.App.1995); Hall v. Clarendon Outdoor Adver., Inc., 311 S.C. 185, 188, 428 S.E.2d 1, 2 (Ct.App.1993); Rule 702, ......
  • Burroughs v. Worsham, No. 3576.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 9 Diciembre 2002
    ...of Greenville, Inc. v. W. Powers McElveen & Assocs., Inc., 347 S.C. 545, 559, 556 S.E.2d 718, 726 (Ct.App.2001); see also Ott v. Pittman, 320 S.C. 72, 463 S.E.2d 101 (Ct.App.1995) (upholding trial judge's decision to exclude particular witness's testimony, which the Court of Appeals charact......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
12 cases
  • Estate of Haley ex rel. Haley v. Brown, No. 4140.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 24 Julio 2006
    ...517 (1986). Nelson, 303 S.C. at 244-45, 399 S.E.2d at 784 (footnote omitted). This Court further discussed the doctrine in Ott v. Pittman, 320 S.C. 72, 463 S.E.2d 101 If a plaintiff was negligent as a matter of law, and that negligence proximately caused the injury complained of, under the ......
  • Lydia v. Horton, No. 3256.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 30 Octubre 2000
    ...Comparison of a plaintiff's negligence with that of the defendant is a question of fact for the jury to decide. See, e.g., Ott v. Pittman, 320 S.C. 72, 80, 463 S.E.2d 101, 106 (Ct.App.1995)(citing trial judge's statement that "because this was a comparative negligence case, even if the plai......
  • Fields v. REGIONAL MED. CENTER ORANGEBURG, No. 3623.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 14 Abril 2003
    ...the fact finder to form an opinion. Gooding v. St. Francis Xavier Hosp., 326 S.C. 248, 252-53, 487 S.E.2d 596, 598 (1997); Ott v. Pittman, 320 S.C. 72, 76, 463 S.E.2d 101, 104 (Ct.App.1995); Hall v. Clarendon Outdoor Adver., Inc., 311 S.C. 185, 188, 428 S.E.2d 1, 2 (Ct.App.1993); Rule 702, ......
  • Burroughs v. Worsham, No. 3576.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 9 Diciembre 2002
    ...of Greenville, Inc. v. W. Powers McElveen & Assocs., Inc., 347 S.C. 545, 559, 556 S.E.2d 718, 726 (Ct.App.2001); see also Ott v. Pittman, 320 S.C. 72, 463 S.E.2d 101 (Ct.App.1995) (upholding trial judge's decision to exclude particular witness's testimony, which the Court of Appeals charact......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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