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McDonald v. Wolfe

Decided: July 11, 1961.

MCDONALD
v.
WOLFE ET VIR AND CUSTER



Appeal from the Baltimore City Court; Foster, J.

Brune, C. J., and Hammond, Prescott, Horney and Sybert, JJ. Brune, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court.

Brune

This is an appeal by one of two defendants from judgments in favor of the plaintiffs against the appellant and the other defendant for damages growing out of an automobile collision. The case turns upon whether or not under the so-called boulevard rule the appellant McDonald, a defendant below, was entitled to a directed verdict or to a judgment n.o.v. in his favor.

This suit arose out of a head-on collision of two automobiles

on Walker Mill Road, near its intersection with County Road, in Prince George's County, which occurred at about 2:35 P. M. on October 14, 1959. The weather was wet and drizzling, but visibility was good. One of the plaintiffs, Pauline J. Wolfe, was a passenger in an automobile owned and operated by the appellant -- defendant, Charles R. McDonald. The other plaintiff is her husband, Donovan J. Wolfe, a nephew of McDonald. Mrs. Wolfe was sitting beside Mr. McDonald in the front seat, and Mrs. McDonald was sitting in the rear seat of the McDonald car. The other car was owned and operated by Donald Wayne Custer, the other defendant below and and an appellee here.

The McDonald car was proceeding generally southward on Walker Mill Road, which curves somewhat to the southeast at its intersection or junction with County Road. This intersection is not at right angles; County Road runs perhaps a little west of south from Walker Mill Road, so that the junction forms a Y, with the bottom of the Y to the north of the intersection, the right fork (facing south) being County Road which seems to be fairly straight for two hundred feet or more, and the left fork being the continuation of Walker Mill Road which curves to the left. Walker Mill Road is a boulevard, and is protected against traffic entering from County Road by a double stop sign, located perhaps thirty feet from the westerly side of the paved portion of Walker Mill Road. A wide and sweeping, but more or less backhanded turn to the right, permits southbound traffic to turn from County Road into Walker Mill Road. Northbound traffic entering Walker Mill Road from County Road would make no sharp turn. It would normally cross the southbound lane of Walker Mill Road and turn slightly to the left to continue on Walker Mill Road.

Just to the north of County Road a gravel road, whose mouth is from 80 to 100 feet wide, takes off westward approximately at a right angle from Walker Mill Road and leads into a gravel pit. A projection of the northwesterly side of the paving on County Road would intersect the pavement on the west side of Walker Mill Road at about the same point where the south side of the entrance to the gravel

pit road meets the west side of the Walker Mill Road paving. North of the entrance to the gravel pit road there is a gravel shoulder about six feet wide on the west side of Walker Mill Road.

Immediately before the accident McDonald was driving south on Walker Mill Road at a speed of about 30 miles an hour. Custer was driving approximately northeast on County Road at a speed which does not appear to have been established. Custer did not stop for the stop signs, but drove past them and onto Walker Mill Road. Once there, instead of crossing into the northbound lane, he proceeded north into the southbound lane and collided head on with McDonald's car at about the north side of the entrance to the gravel pit road. McDonald first saw Custer's car before it reached the stop signs and McDonald saw Custer drive right on past those signs. Just where McDonald was when he saw that Custer was not going to stop and that he would drive through the stop signs is not entirely clear. There is testimony indicating that he was thirty to fifty feet (possibly further) north of the north side of the gravel pit road entrance. At first McDonald thought that Custer was going to cross over into the northbound lane and did not at once slow down or stop. He noticed that Custer's wheels were "shimmying," but thought Custer would make the crossing to the proper lane. Custer, however, continued coming straight towards McDonald, heading north in the southbound lane. McDonald was driving about at the edge of the pavement in his proper lane. Mrs. Wolfe says that he started to swerve first one way and then the other and tried to avoid the collision. McDonald says that he didn't turn at all. He was apparently fearful of trying to turn off onto the right hand shoulder and feared northbound traffic to his left, though there was none near him. By the time he realized Custer was not going to get into his own proper lane and applied his brakes, McDonald's car may have been about twenty feet from Custer's car and it was too late to avoid the collision, which occurred squarely in the southbound lane.

The appellant moved for a directed verdict, the court reserved its ruling thereon, the case went to ...


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