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ATLANTA NEWSPAPERS, INC. v. HITCHCOCK et al.
SOUTHARD v. HITCHCOCK et al.
34910.
34913.
Action for damages. Before Judge Moore. Fulton Superior Court. September 3, 1953.
GARDNER, P. J.
The petition as amended set out a cause of action for submission to a jury against the defendant servant, charging negligence on the part of the defendant in leaving his car parked on the highway at night without lights, thereby causing the death of the plaintiff's husband, and this also set out a cause of action against the employer of this defendant.
Mrs. Lois Hitchcock brought suit in the Superior Court of Fulton County against William H. Southard, J. E. Liles, and Atlanta Newspapers, Inc., in which she sought a judgment for damages of $41,982.72. In her petition filed May 6, 1952, the plaintiff alleged substantially the following facts: On November 2, 1951, at about 6:15 p. m., the plaintiff's husband, H. L. Hitchcock, was riding a motorcycle along South Pryor Road in Fulton County, proceeding in a southerly direction, and, as he approached Pryor Circle, he collided with an automobile owned and operated by the defendant Southard. South Pryor Road is a public road and highway of said State and county, and on said date was wet and slippery as it had been raining and was raining at said time and the visibility was very poor because of this rain and the evening darkness. At said time, the car of said Southard was parked on said highway within a distance of less than 8 feet from the center thereof, and did not have displayed thereon the lights as required by Georgia laws. As a result of this collision the plaintiff's husband was "thrown and catapulted from his motorcycle onto and upon South Pryor Road." As the plaintiff's said husband lay prone upon said highway he was struck by an automobile owned by the defendant, J. E. Liles, which car was then being driven by Donald E. Liles, a minor son of J. E. Liles. As a result of being struck by this automobile, the plaintiff's husband received injuries from which he died. At the time, said son of the defendant, J. E. Liles, was driving said car at a rate of speed "that was greater than was reasonable and safe under the conditions herein set forth." Donald E. Liles failed to keep a proper lookout for the safety of others upon the highway, and especially the safety of the plaintiff's husband, and failed to keep said car under proper control so as to avoid striking and killing the plaintiff's said husband. At all times alleged, said Southard was an agent and servant of the defendant Atlanta Newspapers, Inc., and his acts as set out in the petition were done in the course of his employment. Donald E. Liles, who is the minor son of said defendant Liles, is permitted by this defendant to live in his home, and "said defendant customarily and voluntarily allows [him] to use the automobile herein described on the same footing that he permits the other members of his family to use said car. Said car is provided by said defendant as a family-purpose car for the comfort and convenience of his family." The plaintiff was damaged by reason of the concurrent acts of negligence of the defendants named, and said acts were the direct and proximate cause of the death of her husband. At the date of H. L. Hitchcock's death the plaintiff was his lawful wife, and he was employed by the Chevrolet Division of General Motors Corporation, Atlanta, Georgia, and was earning at said time by reason of his labor $60 weekly. He was on said date 25 years of age, had a reasonable expectancy of 37.86 years to live, and the full value of his life was $41,982.72. Said defendants were negligent as follows: (a) Southard individually and as agent of said Atlanta Newspapers, Inc., did park his automobile on a public highway of this State within a distance of less than 8 feet from the center thereof. (b) Said defendant Southard individually and as said agent and servant did park his automobile on a public highway without proper lights thereon as required by law. (c) The defendant Liles, by and through his son Donald E. Liles, did operate his automobile on a public highway at a speed greater than was reasonable and safe, having due regard
to the conditions then existing. (d) Said defendant Liles through his son did operate his automobile on said highway without keeping a proper lookout in order to avoid striking and killing the plaintiff's husband. (e) Said defendant Liles through his son did operate his automobile on said highway without keeping same under proper control so as to avoid striking and killing the plaintiff's husband.
To this petition the defendant Southard demurred generally, on the ground that no cause of action was stated therein against him, and because the well-pleaded allegations of the petition show that no negligent act of his caused the damages for which suit is brought.
The defendant Atlanta Newspapers, Inc. demurred to the petition generally, because same failed to set forth sufficient facts to show any cause of action against it. This defendant demurred specially to paragraph 9 as being vague, uncertain, and indefinite, and as not alleging the exact nature of the injuries sustained by plaintiff's husband. The defendant also demurred to said paragraph 9 as stating conclusions, and specially to paragraph 16 on the ground that its allegations were vague, indefinite, and failed to set forth the nature of Hitchcock's work, where he was employed or by whom.
The trial judge sustained these special demurrers, giving the plaintiff 20 days in which to amend her petition.
She amended her petition and set out that, at the time of said collision, Southard's car was parked facing in a southerly direction on the west side of said highway, parallel to the center line, and within a distance of less than 8 feet of the center, and did not have displayed thereon the lights required by Georgia law. As a result of the collision, the plaintiff's husband was thrown and catapulted from his motorcycle onto the west side of South Pryor Road "immediately to the rear and to the left of the left rear wheel of the automobile of the defendant Southard." She further set out that, "as the said H. L. Hitchcock lay upon South Pryor Road . . . he was immediately struck by an automobile owned by the defendant, J. E. Liles, which said automobile was being then and there operated by Donald E. Liles, a minor son of the defendant, J. E. Liles." The plaintiff further alleged that, as a result of being struck by said car, her husband received a "compound fracture of the left frontal bone, massive brain damage, compound fracture of the right tibia, compound fracture of the left tibia," and as a result of his injuries died at Grady Hospital at 12:33 a. m., November 3, 1951.
Thereupon the defendants all renewed their demurrers to the petition, and on September 3, 1953, the court rendered this judgment: "The within petition having been amended, all the demurrers, general and special, of the defendants, William H. Southard, J. E. Liles, and Atlanta Newspapers, Inc., as renewed, are hereby overruled."
Within due time Southard excepted to this judgment, naming J. E. Liles, Atlanta Newspapers, Inc., and the plaintiff, Mrs. Lois Hitchcock, as defendants in error. The defendant Atlanta Newspapers, Inc., also excepted, naming the plaintiff, Mrs. Lois Hitchcock, and the defendants J. E. Liles and William H. Southard as defendants in error in its bill of exceptions.
1. The first question is: Did the petition as amended allege a cause of action in favor of the plaintiff, as the wife of the deceased Hitchcock, against the defendant William H. Southard? The question as to whether or not Atlanta Newspapers, Inc., is liable to the plaintiff is dependent upon whether the plaintiff is entitled to recover in this action against Southard, who had driven the parked automobile. In order for the plaintiff to prevail against this defendant, the petition must show negligence on Southard's part from which the plaintiff sustained damages. That this defendant had his car parked within 8 feet from the center line of said State highway is alleged as one of the acts of negligence charged to this defendant, causing the death of the plaintiff's husband. Code 68-302 provides that automobiles using the highways at night shall be equipped with front and rear lamps, clearly visible for at least 100 feet. Code (Ann. Supp.) 68-316 (Ga. L. 1939, pp. 295, 299) provides that the front and rear lights of a motor vehicle when being operated upon the public streets and highways "must be lighted one half hour after sunset to one half hour before sunrise," and at any other time when vision is restricted for any reason less than 500 feet along a public street or highway. So, under the allegations of this petition, it was the duty of Southard not to park his automobile on said highway within 8 feet of the center of same, and it was his duty to have the lights on his motor vehicle burning and clearly visible for at least 100 feet. This duty was owed to the husband of the plaintiff, who was using this highway at the time he met his death.
In Adams v. Jackson, 45 Ga. App. 860 (166 S. E. 258) this court held that "failure to display a proper tail light on a motor vehicle parked along a public highway on a dark night is negligence per se, and where it is the proximate cause of an injury, the owner of the vehicle is liable therefor." "The provisions of the Code, 68-302, referring to mounting of lamps, apply to automobile and automobile trucks using the highway at night, whether the vehicle is standing still or is moving forward or backward at the time it is so using the highway." State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co. v. Henderson, 81 Ga. App. 541 (59 S. E. 2d 319).
There is no merit in the contention of the defendant that the plaintiff should have alleged that her husband did not see the parked automobile of the defendant in time to have avoided colliding therewith, and that, in the absence of such allegation, it must be presumed that he saw the parked car in time to have avoided striking same had he been in the exercise of proper diligence. The plaintiff is not required in her petition to negative the fact that the injury to her husband was not the result of his failure to exercise ordinary care for his own safety or that it was not the result of his own negligence. Such would be matters of affirmative defense. If the petition makes a jury case as to the defendant's negligence, and if it does not affirmatively appear therefrom that the injury resulted either from the negligence of the plaintiff's husband or from his failure to exercise ordinary care for his own safety upon discovery of the defendant's negligence, the petition would not be subject to general demurrer on the ground that it does not set out a cause of action. See Fuller v. Louis Steyerman & Sons, 46 Ga. App. 830 (169 S. E. 508); Bach v. Bragg Bros. & Blackwell, supra.
It would be a question for a jury here whether the negligence of Southard or the negligence of Liles or the negligence of Southard and Liles was the proximate cause of the death of the plaintiff's husband. "Persons guilty of separate acts of negligence which jointly and concurrently co-operate in causing an injury, are joint tortfeasors and may be sued as such." The petition as amended was good against general demurrer as to the defendant Southard, and a jury might well find from proof of the allegations thereof that his negligence was either the proximate cause, or contributed with the alleged negligence of the person driving the car that ran over plaintiff's husband, in causing his death. See Reeves v. McHan, supra. If all the acts of negligence contributed directly and concurrently in bringing about the injury, they together constitute the proximate cause. Adams v. Jackson, supra, and cit.
As to case No. 34910, brought to this court by Atlanta Newspapers, Inc., the petition as amended charges that the defendant Southard, at the time of the death of plaintiff's husband, was acting as the employee and servant of said corporation, and "that his acts as . . . set forth were done in the course of his employment." If this is true, then the defendant Atlanta Newspapers, Inc., is liable to the plaintiff, the negligence of Southard being imputed to said corporation. See Code 105-108.
It is contended that, according to the almanac, the setting of the sun on November 2, 1951, was at 5:47 p. m., that this court will take judicial notice of this fact (Kirkland v. Wheeler, 84 Ga. App. 352, 365, 66 S. E. 2d 348; Powell v. State, 193 Ga. 398, 18 S. E. 2d 678), and that it appeared from the petition as amended that the time of this accident was at "about 6:15 p. m.," and a half hour had not then elapsed since the sun had set and, therefore, the defendant at such time was not compelled by law to have the lights on his parked car burning. Technically speaking, this may be true, but it is our opinion that a jury could determine from evidence supporting the petition that the defendant Southard was negligent in parking his automobile within 8 feet of the center of this highway with no lights burning, under the circumstances and conditions then existing.
We do not think that this case is controlled by the decision of this court in State Highway Dept. v. Stephens, 46 Ga. App. 359 (167 S. E. 788), or comes within the principle therein ruled; and there is no merit in the contention that the plaintiff's petition shows that her husband was guilty of negligence in not avoiding the collision with the parked car. There was no question in the Stephens case, as here, of the poor visibility existing at the time of the accident. In that case the petition showed that the plaintiff ran into the parked truck around noon, and that there was nothing to obstruct his view.
The petition as amended sets forth a cause of action as against the defendant Southard, and consequently as to the defendant Atlanta Newspapers, Inc., Southard's employer, and the trial judge did not err in overruling the demurrers, general and special, of the two defendants thereto.
John E. Feagin, A. Tate Conyers, Edward S. White, Haas, Hurt & Peek, contra.
Ferdinand Buckley, Marshall, Greene, Baird & Neely, for plaintiff in error (Case No. 34913).
John E. Feagin, A. Tate Conyers, Edward S. White, Marshall, Greene, Baird & Neely, contra.
Haas, Hurt & Peek, Geo. A. Haas, for plaintiff in error (Case No. 34910).
DECIDED DECEMBER 2, 1953.
Saturday May 23 03:57 EDT


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