A teen who sustained injuries after being struck by a vehicle while crossing the road will have the opportunity again to take her case to trial, following a recent ruling by the North Carolina Court of Appeals.
In Castro v. Thomas, a trial court judge had granted a directed verdict to the defense upon finding that:
Speed was not a factor in the crash;
Defendant did not see plaintiff until mere seconds before impact;
Plaintiff was contributorily negligent in crossing the road outside a designated crosswalk, in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. 20-174.
The incident happened in Asheboro, about 1.5 hours northeast of Charlotte. North Carolina is one of just four states that continues to follow the contributory negligence rule, which hold that a plaintiff found to have contributed to his or her alleged damages to any degree will be totally barred from any damage recovery.
But the state appellate court ruled trial judge erred in finding there was absolutely no credible evidence that defendant was speeding or that he saw her prior to impact with time to react. Further, while pedestrian accident plaintiff’s violation of the law does indicate some evidence of negligence, it does not establish negligence as a matter of law when taken with plaintiff’s assertion that she had looked both ways before crossing and didn’t see any vehicles approaching.
According to court records, it was about 8:30 p.m. on a February evening in 2012 when defendant’s vehicle struck plaintiff in the roadway, which is a four-lane road running north-and-south with sidewalks on either side. The speed limit is 35 mph on that road and a nearby cross street. One one corner of the intersection, it’s wooded with pine trees, but a post office across the street illuminates part of the street. Plaintiff, who was 13-years-old at the time of the accident, was reportedly wearing dark clothing and a flashing light on her right arm.
She was walking with her mother, her 11-year-old brother, her aunt and three younger cousins. Plaintiff asked her aunt if it was Ok to cross, and her aunt did give her permission, reminding her to look both ways. She said she did look both ways and then began “speed walking” across the street. About two feet from the curb, she was struck by the vehicle. She remembers only “seeing the lights” and then waking up on the ground. The vehicle initially did not stop until the driver turned down the cross street and stopped 198 feet away, and the occupants called police.
Plaintiff suffered injury to her neck, arm, knee and ankle.
An investigating officer indicated there were no skid marks, indicating the driver had not slowed down prior to impact.
The officer concluded the vehicle had only been traveling 15 mph, and was not a contributing factor in the crash. However, the conclusions of a police officer in a report are not necessarily usable in court.
At the close of all evidence presented at trial, defense moved for a directed verdict, which the judge granted. The appeals court found this action improper. The primary question was whether the evidence, in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, is sufficient as a matter of law to be submitted to the jury. In this case, the court ruled, it was.
Plaintiff had presented evidence from which a jury could reasonably infer defendant was traveling faster than 15 mph or that he was traveling faster than was prudent in the circumstances.
There were still issues of genuine material fact that should have been decided by a jury – not the judge as a matter of law.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Castro v. Thomas, Oct. 6, 2015, North Carolina Court of Appeals
More Blog Entries:
Self-Driving Car Makers Blame Human Drivers For Accidents, Oct. 7, 2015, Charlotte Crash Attorney Blog