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Webb v. Adams

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Third Division

August 22, 2017

ANTONIO WEBB, JR., Appellant,
v.
RONICA M. ADAMS, Respondent.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Louis County 11SL-CC02615 Honorable Tom W. DePriest, Jr. Judge.

          GARY M. GAERTNER JR. PRESIDING JUDGE.

         Introduction

         Antonio Webb, Jr. (Webb) appeals from the judgment of the trial court entering a directed verdict in favor of Ronica M. Adams (Adams) in Webb's negligence action arising from a motor vehicle collision. On appeal, Webb asserts the directed verdict was improper because he made a submissible case for Adams' negligence. We reverse and remand for a new trial in accordance with this opinion.

         Background

         Webb and Adams were involved in a motor vehicle accident on April 13, 2011. Webb filed a petition for damages asserting Adams was negligent in that she: (1) operated her vehicle at an excessive speed, (2) failed to keep a careful lookout, (3) failed to yield, and (4) failed to slow down, stop, swerve, or sound a warning. Webb asserted that as a direct result of Adams' actions, he both suffered permanent injuries to his body for which he incurred medical expenses and lost wages, and incurred expenses associated with the damage to his vehicle. Adams denied Webb's allegations of negligence and asserted as an affirmative defense that Webb's injuries were caused in whole or in part by his own carelessness and negligence.

         At trial, Webb introduced the following evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to Webb.[1] Webb admitted Adams' deposition testimony in which she testified that she was stopped in the left-turn lane on New Halls Ferry Road waiting to turn left across the intersection. Her light was green, but she did not have a green arrow, which she understood to mean "proceed with caution" or yield. She saw an oncoming vehicle pull out of a gas station and approach the intersection, but the vehicle pulled into the opposite left-turn lane and stopped. Because the oncoming car was stopped, she decided to make her left turn across New Halls Ferry. As she "was proceeding to turn, " she noticed "at the last minute" the oncoming vehicle veer into the intersection. She applied her brakes, but she was not able to stop in time and her vehicle struck the oncoming vehicle on the mid-rear driver's side.

         Webb testified he exited a QuikTrip car wash and merged into the center/left-turn lane heading southbound at the intersection of New Halls Ferry Road and Dunn Road by the 270 interstate. He then merged from the left-turn lane into the through lane and stopped at the red light. When the light turned green, he "went to proceed" straight through the intersection. He did not remember Adams' vehicle colliding with his. He woke up in the hospital with neck, head, and back pain. The next day, he secured the services of his attorney, who referred him to Dr. Doumit. Dr. Doumit treated Webb for headaches, dizziness, and pain in his neck, mid back, and low back. Webb introduced exhibits documenting the damage to his vehicle.

         Webb admitted several portions of his medical records from the hospital where he was taken immediately after the accident, detailing his injuries. Hospital records indicated Webb reported he was traveling at 20-30 miles per hour when the accident occurred, but Webb introduced no evidence of Adams' speed. Webb admitted an exhibit showing that various medical providers had billed him $22, 734.60, and the amount necessary to satisfy those providers was $16, 621.50.

         At the close of Webb's evidence, Adams moved for a directed verdict, arguing that Webb failed to adduce evidence of any negligence by Adams that could have caused the accident, in that Webb testified he did not remember the accident at all and Adams' deposition testimony did not establish negligence. Webb responded that he had set forth sufficient evidence to make a submissible case for negligence in that he testified he was driving straight through the intersection, and Adams testified in her deposition that she was turning left in an intersection where she was required to yield. Webb argued his evidence was sufficient to establish Adams' negligence causing the accident and his subsequent injuries. The trial court granted Adams' motion and entered judgment in her favor. Webb filed a motion for new trial, which the trial court denied. This appeal follows.

         Standard of Review

         We review the trial court's grant or denial of a motion for directed verdict for whether the plaintiff made a submissible case. Am. Fam. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Coke, 358 S.W.3d 576, 579 (Mo. App. E.D. 2012). Whether the plaintiff made a submissible case is a question of law that we review de novo. Id. To make a submissible case, the plaintiff must present substantial evidence tending to prove the facts essential to recovery, and if the plaintiff fails to do so, then the defendant is entitled to a directed verdict. Id. We view the evidence and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and disregard all contrary inferences. Id. "If reasonable minds can draw different conclusions from the facts, a directed verdict is not proper." Saunders v. Baska, 397 S.W.3d 44, 47 (Mo. App. W.D. 2013) (citation omitted).

         Discussion

         In his sole point on appeal, Webb argues the trial court erred in directing a verdict in favor of Adams at the close of Webb's evidence because he presented substantial evidence of Adams' negligence, in that Adams turned left and struck Webb's vehicle when she did not have the right-of-way, she failed to take measures to avoid the ...


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