Venditti v. St. Louis Public Service Co., No. 41410

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Missouri
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM
Citation360 Mo. 42,226 S.W.2d 599
Docket NumberNo. 2,No. 41410
Decision Date09 January 1950
PartiesVENDITTI v. ST. LOUIS PUBLIC SERVICE CO

Page 599

226 S.W.2d 599
360 Mo. 42
VENDITTI

v.
ST. LOUIS PUBLIC SERVICE CO.
No. 41410.
Supreme Court of Missouri, Division No. 2.
Jan. 9, 1950.
Motion for Rehearing or to Transfer to Court en Banc Denied
Feb. 13, 1950.

Page 600

Louis E. Miller, Miller & Landau, B. Sherman Landau, St. Louis, for appellant.

[360 Mo. 43] Mattingly, Boas & Richards and Lloyd E. Boas, St. Louis, for respondent.

[360 Mo. 44] BOHLING, Commissioner.

Mary Venditti recovered a judgment of $12,750 against the St. Louis Public Service Company, a corporation, for personal injuries sustained as the result of a collision between two of defendant's busses. Plaintiff pleaded and by her sole verdict directing instruction submitted her cause on general negligence on the part of the defendant, a res ipsa loquitur submission. However, the trial court awarded defendant a new trial on the ground plaintiff's said instruction was improper and prejudicial in that plaintiff's evidence established the specific negligence of the defendant causing plaintiff's injuries. Plaintiff appealed.

Plaintiff was injured about one o'clock on the morning of June 22, 1948. It was dark, had been raining and was still misting. She was going home from work, riding defendant's southbound Lee bus on Twentieth street. Defendant's Page-Wellston bus was traveling west on Washington avenue. The two busses collided at the intersection of Twentieth and Washington. There was an automatic traffic light at that intersection.

Plaintiff testified she did not actually see the collision; that she was not awake at the time, and that the first she remembers was that she was standing on the

Page 601

pavement and a policeman was assisting her.

[360 Mo. 45] She put on the stand as her witnesses Ralph Petentler, the operator of the Lee bus, and Gerhardt F. Wilson, the operator of the Page-Wellston bus. Neither of these men was in the employ of the defendant at the time of the trial.

Petentler testified: On this particular trip there was no occasion for the Lee bus to stop at the intersection to pick up or discharge passengers. It approached the intersection at a speed of eight to ten miles an hour, say ten miles an hour, and when the Lee bus was within thirty to forty feet of the intersection the traffic signal turned to 'green' and Petentler proceeded to cross the intersection. And: 'All of a sudden when I had about fifteen feet to stop, the Page-Wellston bus shot right across in front of me, and I was unable to stop. I hit him about in the center of the right-hand side.' Witness could not see the eastwest traffic signal.

Gerhardt F. Wilson testified that he was twenty-six years of age; that at the time of the accident the street was slick from the rain and mist; that he was operating the bus at a speed of fifteen to twenty miles an hour as he approached the intersection; that a building on the northeast corner obstructed his view north on Twentieth street; that when he guessed he was about thirty or forty feet from the intersection, the light turned 'amber'; that the next traffic signal was a 'green' light for northbound traffic on Twentieth street, to be followed by a 'green' light for southbound traffic on Twentieth street; that he did not see the traffic signal for southbound traffic; that he saw the Lee bus, twenty-five to thirty feet away as he got to the corner and, knowing he could not stop in time to avoid an accident on account of the street being slick, he 'gunned the engine' and went through the stop sign to get out of the way.

Plaintiff says the 'basic fundamentals' of the res ipsa loquitur doctrine sustain her instruction; and that the court erred in granting a new trial on the ground she established the specific negligence of the defendant causing her injuries. She stresses Price v. Metropolitan St. Ry. Co., 220 Mo. 435, 453(II), 456(b), 119 S.W. 932, 936(2), 937(b), 132 Am.St.Rep. 588; Stauffer v. Metropolitan St. Ry. Co., 243 Mo. 305, 325, 326, 147 S.W. 1032, 1038; Mueller v. St. Louis Pub. Serv. Co., 358 Mo. 247, 214 S.W.2d 1; Kinchlow v. Kansas City, K. V. & W. Ry. Co., Mo.Sup., 264 S.W. 416, 420[1-3]. 1 Plaintiff's cases stem from Price v. Metropolitan St. Ry. Co., supra.

[360 Mo. 46] In the leading case of McCloskey v. Koplar 2 we said, insofar as material to the instant issue, 'the doctrine res ipsa loquitur does not apply except when (a) * * * (c) and the defendant possesses superior knowledge or means of information as to the cause of the occurrence.' The doctrine is based in part upon the consideration that plaintiff is not in a position to show the particular circumstances which caused the injuries while defendant, having the management and control of the instrumentalities involved, should possess the information essential to establishing the cause of the accident. 3 It is a rule of evidence relating to the method, rather than the burden, of establishing the negligence. 4 It excuses lack of precision in the proof of negligence, and in appropriate instances allows a prima facie inference of negligence against defendant without proof of

Page 602

specific acts of negligence and casts the burden of going forward with the evidence upon the defendant. 5 It does not permit an inference as to what act produced the injury. The permissible inference is that a known act producing an injury was a negligence act. Negligence cannot be predicated upon an act until that act is known. 6 Ordinarily, a plaintiff may not place such burdens upon a defendant by merely showing himself to be ignorant of the facts and that defendant should know the facts. An unlimited application of that reasoning would place too powerful a weapon in ignorance. Consequently, the rule is of restricted scope, to be applied in peculiar and exceptional cases where the demands of justice make its application essential. 7 The reason for the rule is to be found in the particular case before plaintiff may invoke its application, and plaintiff should act in good faith in presenting all the evidence reasonably within his power. 8

[360 Mo. 47] Missouri is committed to the proposition that a plaintiff, having a res ipsa loquitur situation, who pleads the specific negligence causing his injuries is precluded from invoking the rule. 9 That issue is somewhat analogous to the present issue. In the one instance plaintiff admits by his pleading and in the other he demonstrates by the evidence he adduces that he has access to and knows the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
30 practice notes
  • Marquardt v. Kansas City Southern Ry. Co., No. 48472
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • May 14, 1962
    ...he shows that he knows the actual cause, thus eliminating one of the requirements of res ipsa. Venditti v. St. Louis Public Service Co., 360 Mo. 42, 226 S.W.2d 599; Benner v. Terminal R. R. Ass'n of St. Louis, 348 Mo. 928, 156 S.W.2d 657, certiorari denied 315 U.S. 813, 62 S.Ct. 798, 86 L.E......
  • McCaffery v. St. Louis Public Service Co., No. 42737
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • October 13, 1952
    ...Co., Mo.App., 245 S.W.2d 666; Duncker v. St. Louis Public Service Co., Mo.App., 241 S.W.2d 64; Venditti v. St. Louis Public Service Co., 360 Mo. 42, 226 S.W.2d 599; Williams v. St. Louis Public Service Co., Mo.App., 245 S.W.2d 659; Lochmoeller v. Kiel, Mo.App., 137 S.W.2d 625; Heidt v. Peop......
  • Williams v. St. Louis Public Service Co., No. 28189
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • January 15, 1952
    ...Co., 197 Mo. 97, 94 S.W. 872; Duncker v. St. Louis Public Service Co., Mo.App., 241 S.W.2d 64; Venditti v. St. Louis Public Service Co., 360 Mo. 42, 226 S.W.2d 599. And while it is true that under the decisions the benefit of the res ipsa loquitur doctrine will not be lost if, after plainti......
  • Parlow v. Carson-Union-May-Stern Co., CARSON-UNION-MAY-STERN
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • March 10, 1958
    ...or broken.' If specific negligence had been shown the res ipsa loquitur doctrine would not apply. Venditti v. St. Louis Public Serv. Co., 360 Mo. 42, 226 S.W.2d 599, 602. The facts and circumstances shown by plaintiff's evidence call for the application of the res ipsa loquitur doctrine and......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
30 cases
  • Marquardt v. Kansas City Southern Ry. Co., No. 48472
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • May 14, 1962
    ...he shows that he knows the actual cause, thus eliminating one of the requirements of res ipsa. Venditti v. St. Louis Public Service Co., 360 Mo. 42, 226 S.W.2d 599; Benner v. Terminal R. R. Ass'n of St. Louis, 348 Mo. 928, 156 S.W.2d 657, certiorari denied 315 U.S. 813, 62 S.Ct. 798, 86 L.E......
  • McCaffery v. St. Louis Public Service Co., No. 42737
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • October 13, 1952
    ...Co., Mo.App., 245 S.W.2d 666; Duncker v. St. Louis Public Service Co., Mo.App., 241 S.W.2d 64; Venditti v. St. Louis Public Service Co., 360 Mo. 42, 226 S.W.2d 599; Williams v. St. Louis Public Service Co., Mo.App., 245 S.W.2d 659; Lochmoeller v. Kiel, Mo.App., 137 S.W.2d 625; Heidt v. Peop......
  • Williams v. St. Louis Public Service Co., No. 28189
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • January 15, 1952
    ...Co., 197 Mo. 97, 94 S.W. 872; Duncker v. St. Louis Public Service Co., Mo.App., 241 S.W.2d 64; Venditti v. St. Louis Public Service Co., 360 Mo. 42, 226 S.W.2d 599. And while it is true that under the decisions the benefit of the res ipsa loquitur doctrine will not be lost if, after plainti......
  • Parlow v. Carson-Union-May-Stern Co., CARSON-UNION-MAY-STERN
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • March 10, 1958
    ...or broken.' If specific negligence had been shown the res ipsa loquitur doctrine would not apply. Venditti v. St. Louis Public Serv. Co., 360 Mo. 42, 226 S.W.2d 599, 602. The facts and circumstances shown by plaintiff's evidence call for the application of the res ipsa loquitur doctrine and......
  • 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