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Hanes v. State

Decided: July 16, 1964.

HANES
v.
STATE, USE OF LAMM ET AL.



Appeal from the Circuit Court for Frederick County (SCHNAUFFER, C.J.).

The cause was submitted to the entire Court.

Marbury

MARBURY, J., delivered the opinion of the Court.

An automobile owned and operated by the appellant, Robert E. Hanes, and in which Wilbur Roland Lamm was a passenger, ran off the road, down an embankment, and turned over. Lamm was killed as a result, and subsequently a suit was instituted on behalf of his widow and children*fn1 to recover damages resulting from loss of his services and support. The jury rendered a verdict for the equitable plaintiffs after the court had overruled motions for a directed verdict made on behalf of Hanes both at the close of the plaintiffs' case and at the conclusion of the whole case. From judgments entered on the verdict after remittiturs, Hanes appealed.

The accident occurred about ten o'clock on the evening of

October 19, 1962, when the weather was clear and dry. The car was proceeding north on Route U.S. 15, in Frederick County, about two miles north of the town of Point of Rocks. At this location, the road is twenty-two feet wide and is paved with concrete. Beyond the pavement there is a narrow dirt shoulder of unspecified width about one inch below the concrete, and then the terrain falls away sharply. Appellees' first witness was the state trooper who investigated the accident. He testified he arrived at the scene some twenty-five minutes after the accident, and by that time both occupants of the nearly demolished car had already been taken to a hospital. From measurements made the next day, the officer determined that the car traveled a distance of 193 feet from where it had left the right side of the road, to its final point of rest in a field. There were 23 feet of skid marks on the road. He reconstructed that the car struck a concrete culvert after it left the pavement, turned over an estimated three times, and came to rest upright. Photographs were introduced by appellees showing the damages to the car, the section of the road, and the field at the place the accident occurred.

The next witness to testify for the appellees was Charles E. Toms, whose house was on the east side of Route 15 and nearly abreast of where the car went off the road. He testified he was outside the house when he observed lights on the road and heard a "racket" which he interpreted to mean an accident had occurred. He called his brother from the house and together they went to investigate. They found the car and rendered emergency aid to the men. Hanes had been thrown clear of the car, but Lamm was lying so that his feet were in the car on the passenger side while the remainder of his body was on the ground.

On cross examination the only two questions put to Toms by defense counsel produced as evidence that his house was located about 75 yards from the highway and that there was shrubbery between the house and the road. The redirect examination likewise was brief, but it affected the subsequent proceedings indelibly. It went as follows:

"Q. Just one more question: the lights that you saw bobbing -- were they lights from the Hanes car? A. I would say yes.

"Q. Did you see any other lights at that time? A. No, sir, I never took notice of any."

Aside from Corporal Storer of the Maryland State Police, who was put on the stand primarily for purposes of introducing photographs he took at the scene, no other witnesses were called by appellees to ...


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