A man who was injured by a hit-and-run driver in North Carolina several years ago has lost his bid to have the case heard before a civil court.
The dismissal was issued for a number of reasons, but primarily had to do with the fact plaintiff did not immediately report the crash, thus hindering collection of evidence that might have bolstered his case, and also a lack of preparation for trial, despite it being four years from the time of the crash and one year since he’d filed his case.
In Miller v. Holloman, the North Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed trial court’s summary judgment favoring defendant, as well as denial of plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration – effectively ending plaintiff’s bid for $100,000 in compensatory damages.
The case concerned a crash that occurred in May 2009 in eastern North Carolina. It was about 2:30 a.m. when law enforcement were called to respond to an accident in which a gold vehicle had struck a sheriff’s patrol cruiser that was parked at the side of the street. When investigators arrived, they found the gold vehicle still at the scene. However, the driver and ignition keys were missing.
Deputies ran the license plate of the vehicle and determined it belonged to defendant. A witness told deputies she was awakened by the crash, and saw a man in a white t-shirt fleeing the scene in a dark-colored sport utility vehicle.
There is no indication from the report police filed criminal charges against defendant, likely because they were unable to prove he was the one driving.
However, two days after the car accident, plaintiff showed up at the police station to report he too had been involved in that incident. He indicated his vehicle was the first struck by the gold vehicle, which then slammed into the police cruiser. Plaintiff could say the driver of the gold vehicle was wearing a white t-shirt. However, plaintiff’s cousin, who was with him in the car at that time, indicated he knew the driver and identified him as defendant/owner of the vehicle. Plaintiff told police he left the scene because he was in shock over what happened.
Nearly three years after the crash – within the statutory time limits – plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit against defendant seeking $100,000 in damages. He alleged defendant failed to obey the speed limit, failed to keep his vehicle in proper control, failed to exercise reasonable care, failed to use due caution, failed to keep a proper look out and unlawfully fled the scene of a crash.
Defendant filed a response denying any involvement in the crash. Discovery began.
Following discovery, defense filed motion for summary judgment, arguing there was no evidence he was behind the wheel at the time of the crash. Plaintiff responded by noting his cousin had identified defendant as driver.
The court ruled that absent an affidavit/testimony from the cousin to this fact, plaintiff’s statements to this point were hearsay, meaning they could not be considered. Further, because discovery had already been completed and plaintiff had not provided an affidavit/testimony from his cousin, it was too late. Court granted summary judgment to defense.
Plaintiff asked the court to reconsider, and attached an affidavit from the cousin. However, the court declined to reconsider.
On appeal, the appellate court first noted plaintiff had not properly asked for a review on the matter of summary judgment, so it only reviewed the declination of motion to reconsider, which it determined was appropriate given the facts/timeline. The court ruled plaintiff had ample time in which to secure that affidavit prior to the summary judgment hearing. That statement would have been all that was needed for plaintiff’s case to survive summary judgment, but it simply came too late.
Because there was no other evidence to prove defendant was driving at the time of the accident, the case could not go forward.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Miller v. Holloman, March 3, 2015, North Carolina Court of Appeals
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Piltch v. Ford Motor Co. – Injury Lawsuit Fails for Lack of Expert Witness, Feb. 26, 2015, Greensboro Car Accident Lawyer Blog