In Stump v. Phillians, 2 Ohio St.2d 209, this court held that, where a defendant's brakes failed because of a defect in manufacture, which could only have been detected by a fluoroscopic inspection method, which defect caused a weld to break and pulled the hydraulic fluid line and the emergency brake cable causing both to break with tension and leaving the vehicle with no means of applying the brakes, the defendant was liable as a matter of law and, as a matter of law, his negligence was the proximate cause of the injuries to the plaintiff.Summary of this case from Lonzrick v. Republic Steel Corp.
Decided June 2, 1965.
Negligence — Motor vehicles — Rear-end collision — Violation of assured-clear-distance-ahead statute — Section 4511.21, Revised Code — Emergency caused by brake failure, self-created — Not legal excuse for failure to comply with statute — Proximate cause — Directed verdict.
APPEAL from the Court of Appeals for Franklin County.
This is an action to recover damages for personal injuries sustained in a collision involving four motor vehicles. On July 27, 1960, at about 3:00 p. m., all four vehicles were headed south on Summit Street in the city of Columbus. Summit Street is a one-way street with three lanes for moving vehicles. All the vehicles involved were traveling in the center lane.
Appellant, Donald Stump, plaintiff herein, stopped near the intersection of Eleventh Avenue to give the car ahead of him an opportunity to make a left turn. A pickup truck, driven by Eldon Wooden, stopped behind plaintiff. Carl Oiler stopped his vehicle behind Wooden.
After the three vehicles had come to a stop, the vehicle driven by defendant, Roy D. Phillians, struck the rear end of Oiler's vehicle. This produced a series of collisions which resulted in the car of plaintiff being struck.
Plaintiff alleges that he sustained injuries in the collision, and that they were proximately caused by the negligence of defendant. Defendant denies that he was negligent and introduced evidence to show that the collision resulted from brake failure in defendant's vehicle.
Expert testimony was introduced by defendant to show that the brake failure was due to a weakness in the weld of the flange and axle housing. This defect in manufacture could only have been detected by a fluoroscopic method. When the weld broke, it pulled the hydraulic fluid line and the emergency brake cable, causing both to break with the tension. This left the vehicle with no means of applying the brakes.
The trial court submitted the issue of brake failure to the jury with instructions that, to excuse his violation of the assured-clear-distance-ahead statute, defendant must prove that his predicament was due to a sudden and unexpected failure of both means of applying his brakes.
The jury returned a verdict in favor of defendant.
On appeal, the Court of Appeals found that there was no error prejudicial to the plaintiff and affirmed the judgment entered on the verdict.
The cause is before this court upon the allowance of a motion to certify the record.
Mr. Ralph L. Humphrey, Messrs. Lane, Huggard Alton and Mr. Jack R. Alton, for appellant.
Messrs. Wiles, Doucher, Tressler Martin, for appellee.
An operator of a motor vehicle has control over its brake equipment and the maintenance thereof. He has a statutory duty to maintain the brakes in good working order at all times. Ordinary care is not sufficient to constitute compliance. An emergency caused by brake failure cannot serve as a legal excuse for defendant's failure to comply with the assured-clear-distance-ahead provision of Section 4511.21, Revised Code. Spalding v. Waxler, 2 Ohio St.2d 1, paragraph six of the syllabus; Bird v. Hart, 2 Ohio St.2d 9.
Defendant was negligent as a matter of law, and reasonable minds could conclude only that his negligence was the proximate cause of plaintiff's vehicle being struck. Therefore, the trial court should have directed a verdict in favor of plaintiff on the question of liability and submitted only the question of damages to the jury. Kehrer v. McKittrick, 176 Ohio St. 192; Bird v. Hart, supra.
TAFT, C.J., MATTHIAS, O'NEILL, HERBERT, SCHNEIDER and BROWN, JJ., concur.
ZIMMERMAN, J., dissents.