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WAYCASTER v. SORENSON

October 19, 1954

TOM WAYCASTER AND AUGUSTA WAYCASTER, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
S.P. SORENSON AND T.T. COLLEY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John E. Miller, District Judge.

Statement

Plaintiffs filed their complaint against defendants in the Circuit Court of Boone County, Arkansas, and on June 23, 1954, defendants removed the case to this Court.

In due time the defendants each filed separate answers to plaintiffs' complaint, and upon the issues thus joined the case was tried to the Court, without a jury, on September 17 and 18, 1954.

At the conclusion of the trial the case was taken under advisement and counsel for the respective parties were directed to file briefs in support of their contentions. The briefs have been received, and now the Court, having considered the pleadings, ore tenus testimony of witnesses, the deposition of Doctor W.R. Brooksher, exhibits, stipulations and briefs of the parties, makes and files herein its findings of fact and conclusions of law, separately stated.

Findings of Fact

1.

Plaintiffs are each citizens and residents of Boone County, Arkansas.

The defendant, S.P. Sorenson, is a citizen and resident of the State of Missouri.

The defendant, T.T. Colley, is a citizen and resident of the State of Tennessee.

The amount in controversy, exclusive of interest and costs, exceeds the sum of $3,000.

2.

On May 28, 1952, James Sheppard was driving a trailer truck, owned by the defendant, T.T. Colley, on highway 65 about two miles north of Harrison, Arkansas. As he was driving up a small grade about 6:00 a.m. that morning his truck developed motor trouble and he was forced to stop the truck partly on the east shoulder of the highway and partly on the paved portion of the highway. When the truck was stopped Sheppard placed three flares, one being a pot flare and two being reflector flares, along the highway to warn motorists of the danger. One of the flares was placed approximately 100 feet north of the truck, one was placed 100 feet south of the truck, and one was placed along the left side of the truck. The flares placed north and south of the truck were each set about a foot east of the center line of the highway.

Soon after the truck became disabled, Jack Shaddox, a man who lived nearby, appeared driving his cows across the highway. Sheppard asked Shaddox if he had anything that could be used to pull the truck off the highway, and Shaddox said that he had a tractor which might do the job. Shaddox obtained his tractor and proceeded to pull the trailer truck up the gradual incline in a northerly direction, evidently with the intention of pulling the truck up into a gravel road that branched off the main highway in an easterly direction. Shaddox succeeded in pulling the truck about 75 feet along the highway and partly into the gravel road, but before it was pulled completely into the said gravel road Shaddox' tractor wheels began to spin in the gravel and he stopped the tractor.

Sheppard and Shaddox both looked at the truck and concluded that it was in a reasonably safe position. Then Sheppard moved the flares, placing them about six inches east of the east edge of the pavement and 100 feet north and south of the truck. After making a phone call, presumably for assistance, Sheppard returned to the truck and went to sleep in the cab.

At that time the truck was located near the top of a small ridge or hill with the cab of the truck to the north. The grade of the hill which the truck had been driven and pulled up was about four per cent, and about 75 feet north of the truck the highway began a decline of three and one-half per cent north and down the ridge or hill. The place where the truck was parked was also in the bend of a five per cent curve, and thus a person driving north on Highway 65 could not see the position of the truck until he or she was within 250 or 300 feet.

The tractor or cab of the truck was in the gravel road that branched off Highway 65 to the east, and the left side of said tractor or cab was six or eight feet from the east edge of Highway 65. The left rear wheel of the trailer was against the east edge of the pavement of Highway 65, and the left rear corner of the trailer body extended approximately 5 inches over the pavement.

3.

On the same morning the plaintiff, Augusta Waycaster, was proceeding in her husband's automobile, accompanied by her son, Jimmy, from Yellville to Huntsville, Arkansas, via Highway 65. She was taking the automobile to her husband, Tom Waycaster, who had requested her to bring the automobile to Huntsville since he wanted to trade automobiles.

About 10:00 a.m. she was driving north on Highway 65 approximately two miles north of Harrison, Arkansas, at a speed of 40 to 45 miles per hour. It had rained earlier that morning, but by 10:00 a.m. the rain had practically stopped and visibility was good. As she approached the place where Colley's truck was parked she was driving up the slight grade and did not see the truck until she was about 250 feet away. She could not immediately ascertain the exact position of the truck, and she began slowing down. Traffic was approaching from the north and from around the curve. The oncoming traffic was apparently in its proper lane on the west side of the highway and she was fearful that she could not safely drive between the oncoming vehicles and the trailer truck parked on the east shoulder of the highway, so she slowed down even more in order to allow the oncoming traffic to pass before she arrived at a point where she would be compelled to stop behind the truck or pass between the parked trailer truck and the oncoming traffic.

4.

When Sorenson saw the brake lights of the Waycaster automobile as Mrs. Waycaster began slowing down, he applied his brakes, but as above stated was unable to stop before striking the Waycaster automobile. However, at the time of the impact Sorenson had slowed his automobile considerably and the impact was not too severe, although it was of sufficient force to damage both automobiles.

5.

The events that transpired from the time Mrs. Waycaster first saw the parked truck and the time of the collision all happened so quickly that Mrs. Waycaster did not have time to give an arm signal that she was slowing down, nor did she ascertain or know that Sorenson's automobile was directly behind the one she was driving. She merely acted in accordance with her best judgment under the conditions then existing.

6.

After the impact occurred, the automobiles came to rest within a few feet of each other. The front end of Sorenson's automobile was very slightly damaged. In fact, the repair bill for the damages was only $16. The Waycaster automobile, a 1950 Chevrolet, was more extensively damaged. The rear bumper was broken, the left rear of the body was damaged, and the left front part of the top of the automobile was slightly creased. The estimated cost of repairing the Waycaster automobile was $68, but instead of having it repaired Mr. Waycaster traded for another automobile. The difference in the fair market value of the automobile immediately before and immediately after the accident was $100. (Mr. Waycaster testified that he actually received $200 less for his automobile when he traded than he had been offered before the accident, but that testimony was based on the trade in value of the automobile and not on the fair market value.)

7.

When the impact occurred Mrs. Waycaster's head was thrown back sharply, and her son, Jimmy, was thrown to the floor. The boy was uninjured, and Mrs. Waycaster did not think she had received any substantial injury, although she did have a slight pain in her neck as a result of the sudden jerk of her head. Mrs. Waycaster and Sorenson got out of their automobiles and talked for several minutes. They exchanged names and addresses, and Sorenson examined the automobiles to ascertain whether they could be driven. Neither of ...


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