Watson v. Am. Equitable Assur. Co, No. 15175.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtSTUKES
Citation12 S.E.2d 30,195 S.C. 403
PartiesWATSON . v. AMERICAN EQUITABLE ASSUR. CO. et al.
Docket NumberNo. 15175.
Decision Date04 December 1940

12 S.E.2d 30
195 S.C. 403

WATSON .
v.
AMERICAN EQUITABLE ASSUR.
CO. et al.

No. 15175.

Supreme Court of South Carolina

Dec. 4, 1940.


.

Appeal from Common Pleas Court, of Sumter County; M. M. Mann, Judge.

Action by H. E. Watson against the American Equitable Assurance Company and another for damages for an alleged assault upon plaintiff. From a judgment sustaining defendants' motion for a directed verdict, plaintiff appeals.

Reversed and remanded for new trial.

George D. Levy and Shepard K. Nash, both of Sumter, for appellant.

M. M. Weinberg, of Sumter, and Joseph L. Nettles, of Columbia, for respondents.

STUKES, Justice.

It is alleged in the complaint in this action for damages that the first-named respondent, hereinafter for convenience referred to as the Company, is a foreign fire insurance corporation licensed to do business in this state and having an office and agent for that purpose in Sumter County; that the second-named respondent, hereinafter for convenience referred to as the Underwriters, is an association of fire insurance companies, also engaged in business in this state through an agent or agents, conducting investigations for its members, and that the Company is a member of the Underwriters; and that the Company issued several fire insurance policies to a Mrs. Chandler and the defendants sent their agent, one Dreibelbis, from his place of residence in Pennsylvania to Sumter to investigate the loss under the policies. It is further alleged that after making such investigation respondents' agent, Dreibelbis, charged the plaintiff and his sons with having burned the property and upon resentment thereof by the appellant, Dreibelbis, while acting in the scope of his authority as agent of the respondents, assaulted appellant and inflicted injuries necessitating medical attention.

The answer of the Company contains a general denial restricted by the other allegations which are in substance that Mrs. Chandler's loss under her policies with it had been adjusted and paid; denied that Dreibelbis was its agent in any capacity, but was the representative of a national organization whose business it is to investigate on its own responsibility insured and uninsured fire losses; that any injury received by appellant was in a fisticuff with Dreibelbis when the latter was not acting for the Company, but for himself in self-defense in the difficulty which was caused, provoked and started by the appellant; and finally that the Company neither exercised

[12 S.E.2d 31]

nor had any authority or control over the acts of Dreibelbis or the Underwriters.

The latter's answer contains a general denial qualified by allegations that it is an unincorporated association, its members being certain insurance companies, one of which is the Company here involved, and one of its functions is the investigation of fires, whether or not there is insurance, for the purpose of benefiting the general public; that it sent Dreibelbis to Sumter for the purpose of investigating the Chandler fire, which loss has been adjusted and paid; and that appellant's injuries resulted from a general fisticuff between him and Dreibelbis who was not acting for the Underwriters but solely for himself in self-defense in the difficulty which was caused, provoked and started entirely by the appellant.

After the testimony was in respondents moved for a directed verdict in their favor upon the grounds that the evidence was "undisputed and points only to the conclusion that neither of the defendants can be liable because,

"(1) Dreibelbis was not acting as the agent of either of the defendants at the time of the altercation, nor was he acting within the scope of his authority: " (a) if the altercation was caused by language used by the appellant it admittedly related only to the Chandler loss and applied to Dreibelbis personally; (b) appellant's language which brought about the altercation was used by him solely against Dreibelbis personally; (c) the Chandler loss had been entirely closed and defendants were not liable for an altercation relating thereto; and (d) that it was undisputed that the only loss which Dreibelbis was investigating at the time was that of the appellant which occurred three weeks subsequent to the closing of the Chandler loss, and respondents were only exercising their legal rights in investigating appellant's loss by making full inquiry of him, and there is no testimony of any language used by Dreibelbis relating to the investigation of appellant's loss which was improper or which, in fact, caused the altercation; and finally, (2) that "the only reasonable construction to be put upon the testimony is that for some reason the plaintiff himself used opprobrious language which could only bring about an altercation in all of the circumstances of this case and that Dreibelbis had every right to defend himself; therefore, the defendants could not be held liable for his acts in that connection."

After argument the trial Judge sustained the ground numbered (1) above and directed the verdict for the...

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3 practice notes
  • Jackson v. Jackson, No. 17520
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • April 6, 1959
    ...witnesses and the weight to be given to their testimony are questions for the jury. Watson v. American Equitable Assur. Co., 195 S.C. 463, 12 S.E.2d 30; Jones v. Atlanta-Charlotte Air Line R. Co., 218 S.C. 537, 63 S.E.2d 476, 26 A.L.R.2d 297; Cammer v. Atlantic Coast Line R. Co., 214 S.C. 7......
  • Feldman v. North British & Mercantile Ins. Co., No. 5092.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • July 30, 1943
    ...179, 92 S.E. 335; Jennings v. Clearwater Mfg. Co., 171 S.C. 498, 172 S.E. 870; Watson v. American Equitable Assur. Co., 195 S. C. 463, 12 S.E.2d 30. The judgment of the District Court will be affirmed in toto as to the New York Fire Insurance Company. As to the North British & Mercantile In......
  • Taylor v. Powell, No. 15181
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • December 10, 1940
    ...not the "conscious disregard of the obligation of due care", necessary to defeat recovery for his injuries under the statute, Code[12 S.E.2d 30] Section 8377, applicable here if the evidence had been susceptible of a reasonable inference that the required crossing signals had not been given......
3 cases
  • Jackson v. Jackson, No. 17520
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • April 6, 1959
    ...witnesses and the weight to be given to their testimony are questions for the jury. Watson v. American Equitable Assur. Co., 195 S.C. 463, 12 S.E.2d 30; Jones v. Atlanta-Charlotte Air Line R. Co., 218 S.C. 537, 63 S.E.2d 476, 26 A.L.R.2d 297; Cammer v. Atlantic Coast Line R. Co., 214 S.C. 7......
  • Feldman v. North British & Mercantile Ins. Co., No. 5092.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • July 30, 1943
    ...179, 92 S.E. 335; Jennings v. Clearwater Mfg. Co., 171 S.C. 498, 172 S.E. 870; Watson v. American Equitable Assur. Co., 195 S. C. 463, 12 S.E.2d 30. The judgment of the District Court will be affirmed in toto as to the New York Fire Insurance Company. As to the North British & Mercantile In......
  • Taylor v. Powell, No. 15181
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • December 10, 1940
    ...not the "conscious disregard of the obligation of due care", necessary to defeat recovery for his injuries under the statute, Code[12 S.E.2d 30] Section 8377, applicable here if the evidence had been susceptible of a reasonable inference that the required crossing signals had not been given......

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