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Williams v. Bethany Volunteer Fire Department and Benny Plato Bullard

Filed: May 4, 1982.

J. FLOYD WILLIAMS AND WIFE, VARA BULLARD WILLIAMS
v.
BETHANY VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT AND BENNY PLATO BULLARD



Appeal by plaintiffs from Clark, Judge. Judgment entered 6 February 1981 in Superior Court, Cumberland County. Heard in the Court of Appeals 12 March 1982.

Hill, Judge. Judges Wells and Becton concur.

Hill

Plaintiff's evidence tends to show that on the morning of 29 January 1980, he got a haircut, and on his way home intended to see a friend who lives beyond the intersection of Rural Paved Road 1006 and Rural Paved Road 1826. Rural Paved Road 1006 runs North and South; Rural Paved Road 1826 runs East and West. A stop sign is located at the intersection on Rural Paved Road 1826. Visibility from the South down Rural Paved Road 1006 is obstructed by a house, trees, and shrubs. Plaintiff testified as follows:

As I approached the intersection, I was probably 75 foot from the intersection, and I saw the fire truck coming from the right, probably 60 foot down the road from the intersection. The speed of my car approaching the intersection was somewheres from 42 or 3 miles per hour. I was decreasing my speed as I approached the intersection because I was going to stop at my friend's house. When I first saw the fire

truck, it was in 50 foot of me. I mean, you know, he was coming into the intersection. When I first saw the fire engine it was actually coming into the intersection.

Plaintiff stated that the fire truck did not slow down for the stop sign. He estimated its speed upon entering the intersection at "25, 30 miles per hour." He did not hear a siren on the truck nor did he see flashing lights. Plaintiff testified, "When I first saw [the fire truck] it was coming into my lane of traveling. . . . It was in the intersection. . . . After I saw the fire truck coming into my lane of travel, I applied brakes. My brakes took hold and the truck kept a-going and then I struck the side of the truck." Plaintiff did not see the fire truck sooner because his view was obstructed; "it's a blind intersection." He had no recollection of exactly where the collision occurred.

Defendants' evidence tends to show that on 29 January 1980, defendant Bullard was employed by defendant fire department as its driver. He was called out on a dumpster fire that morning and pulled the fire truck out of the station. Defendant Bullard testified, "There I turned on the lights, turned on the siren, and sat there [about] 60 seconds waiting to see if any of the volunteers were coming." He set the truck's siren on the "high-low frequency." Another siren on top of the station already was operating; "[i]t's just a roaring sound . . . that . . . can be heard at least three miles. . . ."

Defendant Bullard further testified that as he traveled from the station to the intersection of Rural Paved Road 1006 and Rural Paved Road 1826, his top speed was 15 miles per hour. He stated,

When I got to a reasonable distance from the stop sign, I slowed down to look if anything was coming. . . . I reduced my speed to 10 miles an hour right there adjoining the stop sign. . . . I looked left at that point as I reached the stop sign. I looked right to make sure there was not nothing coming. And when I did not see anything, I proceeded on.

As he crossed the intersection, the collision occurred. The impact was the rear end of the truck, knocking it "sideways."

Richard Allen Strickland, then a volunteer fireman for defendant fire department, also testified ...


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