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Atlanta Transit System v. Allen

Court of Appeals of Georgia
Apr 6, 1960
115 S.E.2d 479 (Ga. Ct. App. 1960)




Action for damages. Fulton Superior Court. Before Judge Shaw. September 25, 1959.

Hugh M. Dorsey, Jr., Jule W. Felton, Jr., for plaintiff in error.

Ward, Brooks Williams, Cullen M. Ward, Wilson Brooks, contra.

The trial court did not err in overruling a motion non obstante veredicto when there was evidence to authorize the verdict.


Alice V. Allen filed suit for damages in the Superior Court of Fulton County against Atlanta Transit System, Inc., for injuries alleged to have been sustained when she fell from the center, or rear, door of a transit bus operated by the defendant. The petition was in two counts. In count 1, the plaintiff alleged that her injuries were attributable to negligence on the part of the driver. In count 2 she alleged that her injuries were attributable to defects in, and negligent maintenance of the bus. The jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff on count 1, and for the defendant on count 2. A summary of the petition is given in Atlanta Transit System v. Allen, 96 Ga. App. 622 ( 101 S.E.2d 134).

On the trial the evidence showed that the center or rear door through which the plaintiff got off the bus was a push-type door which passengers were to push to open, and that just above the door there was a green light with a sign which read: "Push to open when light is on." This light and sign were just above the eye level of a passenger undertaking to disembark from the bus through the center door. The evidence also showed without dispute that the mechanism of the center door was such that when a passenger wished to disembark, the driver could release the lock on the center door thus enabling the passenger to open the door by pushing on it and thence to step down from the bus. The driver could not open the center door or cause it to open, but could only release the door, which then had to be pushed to be opened. If a passenger were pushing the door at the time it was unlocked by the driver, it would not open until the pressure was released and applied again subsequent to the unlocking.

The plaintiff testified that she had gone to the center door to get off at her bus stop; that when the bus had come to a full stop she tried three times to push the door open; that she began her fourth attempt when she fell out of the door; that she did not push the door on the fourth attempt. Mr. Radford testified that he was behind the plaintiff at the center door; that he reached over the plaintiff's shoulder to help open the door; that as he put his hand on the door, it came open and the plaintiff fell out. At the same time the witness Radford admitted his signature to a written statement dated October 28, 1958, in which the following statement was made: "I was getting off the bus but there was a lady in front of me on the steps at the rear door. The lady was pushing on the door and I reached over her shoulder and pushed and the door opened." On cross-examination, Radford denied that this statement, even though signed by him, was correct, and he reiterated his previous testimony that he had not pushed the door.

At the conclusion of the evidence, the defendant made a motion for a directed verdict as to both counts on the ground that a verdict for the defendant was demanded under both the pleadings and evidence. The court overruled the motion and the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff on count 1, and the defendant on count 2. The defendant filed a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict on count 1, and this motion was overruled by the trial court. The defendant excepted and the case is now before this court for review.

"The function of the motion for judgment non obstante veredicto is not the same as that of a motion for a new trial, but is a summary method of disposing of the entire litigation where it is obvious that the party against whom the motion is directed cannot under any circumstances win his case." McClelland v. Carmichael Tile Co., 94 Ga. App. 645 ( 96 S.E.2d 202). If the evidence authorized the verdict the motion should be overruled. City Council of Augusta v. Hood, 95 Ga. App. 259 ( 97 S.E.2d 639). In Echols v. Thompson, 211 Ga. 299, 303 ( 85 S.E.2d 423) the Supreme Court approved the statement that where there is an evidentiary basis for the jury's verdict, the jury being free to discard or disbelieve whatever facts were inconsistent with their conclusions, it is error for the court to substitute its conclusions for those of the jury and enter a judgment notwithstanding the verdict. On such motion the evidence must be accepted which is most favorable to the party in whose favor the verdict was rendered.

The undisputed evidence of this case shows that the plaintiff was a passenger on the defendant's bus, that the bus had a rear door bearing the words "Push to Open," that after the bus had reached a full stop, the plaintiff tried several times to push the door open, and, that the door then opened unexpectedly thereby causing her to fall to the ground and inflicting injury to her person. The evidence disclosed that this particular door required some external force to open it because the bus operator could only activate a mechanism, which "unlocked" the door, whereafter the passenger could push the door open and alight from the bus. Though the evidence does not clearly show whether the plaintiff did or did not push the door when it finally came open, this evidence would not debar the plaintiff's right of recovery. This court held in Atlanta Transit System, Inc. v. Allen, 96 Ga. App. 622, 637 ( 101 S.E.2d 134): "If one pushes against a door which is supposed to yield and does not, whether an ordinarily prudent person would simply think the door was hard to move and use greater force to move it, or whether such person would expect it to suddenly yield and spring back is an issue of fact under all the circumstances of the case."

The negligence charged in this case is the operator's conduct relating to the unlocking of the bus door. There is ample evidence to show that the plaintiff was having difficulty in causing the door to open, and the jury was justified in finding that the operator's inattention, delay and general conduct relating to the opening of the door set in motion the subsequent events which resulted in and caused the plaintiff's injury. The evidence authorized the verdict and the trial court did not err in overruling the motion non obstante veredicto.

Judgment affirmed. Gardner, P. J., and Nichols, J., concur. Felton, C. J. disqualified.

Summaries of

Atlanta Transit System v. Allen

Court of Appeals of Georgia
Apr 6, 1960
115 S.E.2d 479 (Ga. Ct. App. 1960)
Case details for

Atlanta Transit System v. Allen

Case Details


Court:Court of Appeals of Georgia

Date published: Apr 6, 1960


115 S.E.2d 479 (Ga. Ct. App. 1960)
115 S.E.2d 479

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