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Gilbow v. Crawford

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

March 18, 2015

BARRY R. GILBOW, APPELLANT
v.
JIMMY S. CRAWFORD, APPELLEE

Page 751

APPEAL FROM THE WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. NO. CV-11-2695. HONORABLE JOANNA TAYLOR, JUDGE.

AFFIRMED.

Robertson, Beasley & Ford, PLLC, by: Mark E. Ford, for appellant.

Friday, Eldredge & Clark, LLP, by: Donald H. Bacon and Martin A. Kasten, for appellee.

VIRDEN and GRUBER, JJ., agree.

OPINION

Page 752

DAVID M. GLOVER, Judge.

On February 12, 2011, appellant Barry Gilbow and appellee Jimmy Crawford, both pilots, were flying in a small airplane when it crashed short of the runway at Springdale Airport. Gilbow suffered injuries, and the plane was damaged. Thereafter, Gilbow filed suit against Crawford, alleging that he suffered personal injury, pain and suffering, and mental anguish; incurred medical expenses for treatment of his injuries; experienced a loss of earnings; and suffered the loss of personal property as a result of Crawford's negligence, which Gilbow asserted was the proximate cause of the crash due to Crawford's failure, as pilot-in-command, to provide sufficient fuel for the flight and to keep the airplane under control. Crawford answered Gilbow's complaint and denied the allegations, specifically stating that " if [Gilbow] suffered as alleged in the Complaint, said damages were proximately caused by [Gilbow] as the pilot in command, including but not limited to [Gilbow's] failure to properly fuel the plane and to otherwise operate the plane in a safe manner." Crawford counterclaimed that due to Gilbow's negligence, he suffered injuries and incurred medical expenses. Both parties requested a jury trial.

At trial, after Gilbow had presented his case-in-chief, Crawford requested and was granted a directed verdict based on the lack of evidence of what caused the plane to crash. Gilbow sought to reopen his case to supply additional proof; he was not allowed to do so. He then filed a motion for new trial, which was deemed denied. Gilbow now appeals, arguing that the trial court erred in granting Crawford's motion for directed verdict, in not allowing him (Gilbow) to reopen his case-in-chief, and in denying his motion for a new trial.[1] We affirm.

Directed Verdict

Gilbow first argues that the trial court erred in granting Crawford's motion for directed verdict. After Gilbow presented his case-in-chief, Crawford moved for a directed verdict, asserting that the evidence presented by Gilbow failed to prove what caused the accident, and that the fact that an accident occurred was not evidence of negligence. He argued that the jury would have to speculate as to what caused the accident and whether anyone was negligent. The trial court agreed with Crawford and granted his motion for directed verdict.

In Gamble v. Wagner, 2014 Ark.App. 442, 440 S.W.3d 352, our court set forth the standard of review for directed-verdict grants:

A trial court evaluates a motion for directed verdict by deciding whether the evidence is sufficient for the case to be submitted to the jury; that is, whether the case constitutes a prima facie case for relief. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Tucker, 353 Ark. 730, 739, 120 S.W.3d 61, 66 (2003). In making that evaluation, the trial court does not weigh the evidence; rather, the ...

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