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Belle Isle Cab Co. v. Trammell

Decided: January 25, 1962.

BELLE ISLE CAB COMPANY, INC., ET AL.
v.
LOUISE MAST TRAMMELL ET VIR



Appeal from the Superior Court of Baltimore City; Cullen, J.

Hammond, Prescott, Horney, Marbury and Sybert, JJ. Horney, J., delivered the opinion of the Court. Marbury, J., dissents.

Horney

The principal question to be decided in this tort action arising out of a collision between two motor vehicles is whether there are two intersections or one within the area between the north and south sides of Oliver Street in the City of Baltimore and between the east side of Central Avenue and the west side of Harford Avenue. If the area is one intersection it is possible that the judgment below could be affirmed. But if there are two intersections in the area, then the judgment must be reversed.

Central Avenue, running in a northwesterly direction, and Harford Avenue, running in a northeasterly direction, after converging for some distance, finally merge into one street. The entire area northward from the south side of Oliver Street and between the east side of Central Avenue and the west side of Harford Avenue, up to the point (a short distance north of the north side of Oliver Street) where the two avenues merge into one, was a single unbroken triangular-shaped space paved with macadam. The three streets comprising most of the area were not marked or separated in any way to indicate where one street ended and the other began. Nor was there any channelization of traffic in the area. However, all of the streets were two-way streets and traffic was permitted in both directions on all of them. Both Central and Harford avenues had been designated by separate ordinances as boulevard or through streets and had been treated and used as such for several years. But apparently there was nothing to indicate that these streets were throughways. Nor does it appear that either of the operators knew they were throughways.

There were no mechanical traffic signals at the intersections. At the northeast corner of the Oliver-Central intersection there were double stop signs, one facing east for westbound traffic, and the other facing west (apparently as an extra sign) for eastbound traffic. At the southwest corner of this Oliver-Central intersection there was also a stop sign facing west for eastbound traffic. And at the southwest corner of the Oliver-Harford intersection there was a stop sign facing west for eastbound traffic. But there was neither a stop sign nor a "stop line" on Oliver Street at or near the unmarked northeast

corner of the Oliver-Harford intersection. Nor was there an east-facing stop sign at either the northwest or southwest corners of this Oliver-Harford intersection. There were also no curbs, islands, street signs or other markings*fn1 within the triangular-shaped area along the north side of Oliver Street to warn westbound traffic that there were in fact two intersections (instead of one) in the area.

At the time of the accident, Oliver Street was thirty-nine feet wide. Central Avenue was approximately forty-one feet wide from curb to curb and Harford Avenue was thirty feet wide from curb to curb at its southerly intersection with Oliver Street. The distance between the stop signs at the northeast corner of the Oliver-Central intersection across the macadam paving to a point at or near the northwest corner of the Oliver-Harford intersection was approximately one hundred and thirty-two feet. And, since the combined width of Central and Harford avenues was seventy-one feet, the intervening space between the westerly side of Central and the easterly side of Harford was approximately sixty-one feet.

In the early morning of May 5, 1958, the plaintiff (Louise Mast Trammell) was operating an automobile in a northerly direction on Harford Avenue. At the same time one of the defendants (Robert P. Lowers, Jr.) was operating a taxicab of the other defendant (Belle Isle Cab Co., Inc.) in a westerly direction on Oliver Street. When the plaintiff had almost completed crossing the Harford Avenue-Oliver Street intersection, the automobile was struck on its right side by the taxicab, which, having crossed the Oliver Street-Central Avenue intersection without a mishap, also crossed the intervening space between the westerly side of Central Avenue and the easterly side of Harford Avenue, and entered the Oliver-Harford intersection without stopping. There is a conflict in the evidence as to whether the taxicab had stopped before

entering the Oliver-Central intersection. The cab operator claimed that he did, but the passenger in the cab testified that he did not. The plaintiff, who had been following a sand and gravel dump truck northward on Hardford Avenue at about twenty to twenty-five m.p.h., testified that when the truck turned right into a filling station on the south side of Oliver Street between Central and Harford avenues, she looked both left and right, and, not seeing any approaching traffic west of Central Avenue, entered the Harford-Oliver intersection at a reduced rate of speed. The cab operator testified that after he had crossed Central Avenue and was proceeding west at about seven m.p.h., he looked both left (where his vision was obscured by a truck parked at the filling station) and right and then back to the left again, when, for the first time, he saw the Trammell automobile right in front of him.

At the trial of the case below, the court refused to admit evidence proffered to show (a) that there was no stop sign controlling westbound traffic at the intersection of Oliver Street with Harford Avenue; (b) that a stop sign (according to the specifications in the sign manual adopted by the State Roads Commission) should have been erected along the north side of Oliver Street not closer than six nor more than fifty feet from the northeast corner of the Oliver-Harford intersection; and (c) that a stop sign had been erected at that point subsequent to the accident. At the close of the evidence, the court denied the motion of the defendant for a directed verdict based on the theory that the plaintiff was guilty of contributory negligence as a matter of law. Furthermore, the court refused to instruct the jury with respect to Code (1957), Art. 66 1/2, ยง 231 (a),*fn2 requiring a vehicle approaching from the left to give the right of way to a vehicle approaching from the right at an intersection that is not controlled by a traffic signal ...


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