Schade v. Carnegie Body Co., 81-729

Decision Date23 June 1982
Docket NumberNo. 81-729,81-729
Citation436 N.E.2d 1001,70 Ohio St.2d 207,24 O.O.3d 316
Parties, 24 O.O.3d 316 SCHADE et al., Appellees, v. CARNEGIE BODY CO. et al., Braden, Appellant.
CourtOhio Supreme Court

Syllabus by the Court

1. When a party fails to object to the giving of or failure to give a jury instruction before the jury retires to consider a verdict, the party may not assign as error the giving of or failure to give such instruction.

2. An instruction on contributory negligence is not inconsistent with the refusal to give an instruction "on assured clear distance," where the evidence supports such an instruction. (Erdman v. Mestrovich, 155 Ohio St. 85, 97 N.E.2d 674, followed.)

Philip Zimmerman and Richard A. Fromson, Cleveland, for appellees.

McNeal, Schick & Archibald and Albert J. Biro, Cleveland, for appellant.

REILLY, Justice.

Appellant advances four propositions of law:

1. "Where a party has specifically waived all objections to jury instructions requested by the opposing party, an Appeals Court may not base reversal of a jury verdict on a jury instruction given pursuant to that waiver."

2. "In the absence of plain error, an Appeals Court may not base reversal of a jury verdict on a jury instruction neither assigned as error by appellant nor objected to at trial."

3. "It is the duty of the Trial Court to properly and fully instruct the jury as to the vital issues in the case as raised by the pleadings and the evidence. Where some evidence is presented from which contributory negligence could reasonably be inferred, a fair and balanced charge on that issue is not prejudicial error."

4. "In considering whether a Trial Court's charge to the jury was misleading or confusing, the charge must be considered as a whole. If the charge so construed is a correct statement of the law and so adapted to the case as not to be misconstrued or misunderstood by the jury in the application of the law to the facts, the Trial Court has properly fulfilled its responsibility."

Plaintiffs-appellee, Howard J. and Barbara J. Schade and their daughter, Patricia M., filed an action for personal injuries sustained by Patricia when she was 14 years old. The case was tried to a jury, which returned a verdict for the defendant-appellant, Beth A. Braden. The action as to defendants Carnegie Body Co. et al. was dismissed. Plaintiffs filed a motion for a new trial, which was overruled. The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment and remanded the cause for a new trial.

The record shows that on December 12, 1974, Patricia Schade was walking in a westerly direction on the north berm of Cook Road in Olmsted Township, Cuyahoga County, when she was struck by an automobile operated by defendant Beth A. Smolik, now Beth A. Braden. Plaintiff suffered severe personal injuries.

Defendant Braden alleged the affirmative defense of contributory negligence and contended that the evidence was sufficient to allow an inference that plaintiff may have altered her path on the berm so as to briefly place a portion of her body on the highway at the instant she was struck. The trial court charged the jury on contributory negligence, but denied a requested instruction on "assured distance."

A majority of the Court of Appeals based its reversal of the trial court's decision on the rationale that there was no evidence to support the issue of contributory negligence, thereby rendering such instruction improper. Accordingly, the appellate court sustained plaintiffs' first assignment of error that the charge of the court to the jury was incomplete and misleading. The court overruled all other assignments of error.

The cause is now before this court pursuant to the allowance of a motion to certify the record.

As to appellant's first proposition of law, Civ.R. 51(A) reads in relevant part that:

"A party may not assign as error the giving or the failure to give any instruction unless he objects thereto before the jury retires to consider its verdict, stating specifically the matter to which he objects and the grounds of his objection. Opportunity shall be given to make the objection out of the hearing of the jury."

There is a "plain error" exception to this rule, however, as State v. Long (1978), 53 Ohio St.2d 91, 372 N.E.2d 804, paragraph three of the syllabus, states:

"Notice of plain error under Crim.R. 52(B) is to be taken with the utmost caution, under exceptional circumstances and only to prevent a manifest miscarriage of justice."

It follows that if this limiting principle is applicable to a criminal action, it is also valid in a civil case.

A "plain error" is obvious and prejudicial although neither objected to nor affirmatively waived which, if permitted, would have a material adverse affect on the character and public confidence in judicial proceedings. In this case, plaintiffs failed to timely object to the charge of contributory negligence. There could only be plain error where there is the complete absence of any reasonable possibility of negligence on the part of the plaintiff. Since there was sufficient evidence presented upon which to base the charge, there is no plain error. Therefore, that question could not successfully be raised on appeal.

Moreover, even if it was proper to consider the charge on appeal, the appellate court erred in concluding there was insufficient evidence to justify the charge. For instance, the point of impact between plaintiff and defendant's automobile was on the right side of the vehicle. Defendant's testimony shows that her vehicle never left the pavement. The investigating officer did not discover skid marks or mud on the front tires or the road. Furthermore, plaintiff was walking on a narrow berm only four to six inches from the road. Thus, it could reasonably be inferred that she wavered onto the road at the moment of the accident. Consequently, there is sufficient evidence for an inference of contributory negligence sufficient to support the trial court's instruction. Therefore, appellant's first proposition of law is well taken.

Concerning appellant's second proposition of law, although App.R. 12(A) indicates that it is within a Court of Appeals' discretion to consider errors not specifically set forth in the record and separately argued in counsel's brief, the fundamental rule is that an appellate court will not consider any error which could have been brought to the trial court's attention, and hence avoided or otherwise corrected. State v. Glaros (1960), 170 Ohio St. 471, 166 N.E.2d 379, paragraph one of the syllabus. In this case, while plaintiffs referred to the contributory negligence charge in their brief to the appellate court, such reference was made only in conjunction with the alleged error involving the "assured clear distance" instruction. There was no error actually alleged concerning the charge on contributory negligence. Accordingly, appellant's second proposition of law is also well taken.

As to appellant's third proposition of law, the court properly refused to charge on "assured clear distance" and correctly charged on contributory negligence. Erdman v. Mestrovich (1951), 155 Ohio St. 85, 97 N.E.2d 674, holds that when there is no evidence to support an issue, no charge should be given thereon. Erdman further indicates that giving an instruction on contributory negligence is not inconsistent with the refusal to give an instruction on "assured clear distance" where the evidence supports such an instruction.

In this case, there is no evidence that plaintiff was a discernible object in the front and within the directional line of defendant's travel for a time sufficient to allow defendant to avoid the accident with reasonable care. Nonetheless, based on the evidence, it was not inconsistent for the trial court to instruct the jury on contributory negligence. Therefore, appellant's third proposition of law is well taken.

Finally as to appellant's fourth proposition of law, considering the trial court's instruction in its totality, those portions alleged to be erroneous were not improper. The instructions, as a whole, were sufficiently clear to enable the jury to understand the law...

To continue reading

Request your trial
987 cases
  • Nevins v. Ohio Dept. of Transp.
    • United States
    • Ohio Court of Appeals
    • December 22, 1998
    ...Accordingly, Civ.R. 51(A) prohibits plaintiffs from raising an objection to the charge in this court. Schade v. Carnegie Body Co. (1982), 70 Ohio St.2d 207, 24 O.O.3d 316, 436 N.E.2d 1001, paragraph one of the syllabus. Therefore, plaintiffs' second cross-assignment of error in the Concrete......
  • Klem v. Consol. Rail Corp..
    • United States
    • Ohio Court of Appeals
    • July 16, 2010
    ...the entire jury charge. Cf. State v. Penson (Feb. 26, 1990), 2d Dist. No. 9193, 1990 WL 19395; Schade v. Carnegie Body Co. (1982), 70 Ohio St.2d 207, 24 O.O.3d 316, 436 N.E.2d 1001; Wagenheim v. Alexander Grant & Co. (1983), 19 Ohio App.3d 7, 19 OBR 71, 482 N.E.2d 955. {¶ 59} Because Klem d......
  • In re J.M.P.
    • United States
    • Ohio Court of Appeals
    • September 29, 2017
    ...38 N.E.3d 860, ¶22, quoting State v. Barnes, 94 Ohio St.3d 21, 27, 759 N.E.2d 1240 (2002); Schade v. Carnegie Body Co., 70 Ohio St.2d 207, 209, 436 N.E.2d 1001, 1003 (1982) ("A 'plain error' is obvious and prejudicial although neither objected to nor affirmatively waived which, if permitted......
  • In re J.R.F.
    • United States
    • Ohio Court of Appeals
    • September 29, 2017
    ...38 N.E.3d 860, ¶22, quoting State v. Barnes, 94 Ohio St.3d 21, 27, 759 N.E.2d 1240 (2002); Schade v. Carnegie Body Co., 70 Ohio St.2d 207, 209, 436 N.E.2d 1001, 1003 (1982) ("A 'plain error' is obvious and prejudicial although neither objected to nor affirmatively waived which, if permitted......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT