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Aarhus v. Wake Forest University

Filed: June 1, 1982.

DONNA W. AARHUS
v.
WAKE FOREST UNIVERSITY



Appeal by plaintiff from Wood, Judge. Judgment entered 1 April 1981 in Superior Court, Forsyth County. Heard in the Court of Appeals 6 April 1982.

Hill, Judge. Judge Becton concurs. Judge Hedrick concurs in result only.

Hill

Plaintiff testified that about 10 a.m. on 2 September 1976, she "closed down" her own cash register and relieved a co-worker, Mary Dingman, at cash register "D" in the cafeteria on defendant's campus. She began working, but the register would not ring. Plaintiff in a free moment looked for the plug with no success. When she again had no customers, plaintiff testified that she "decided to bend around and see where that outlet was, and it came down. The leg on the table came down and the cash register with it. The right leg of the table hit the top of my foot, minutes before the accident. She further testified that she had not noticed "any difficulty or any peculiarity about the condition of the cash register table" two days earlier when she worked with cash register "D," and that "[n]o one had made any statement to me or in my presence about the condition of the cash register table before I was injured."

Mary Dingman, the regular operator of cash register "D," testified that she noticed a problem with one of the legs of the cash register table and told her supervisor, Lucille Smith Jackson, of the problem about six weeks before the accident. She stated, "I had no trouble seeing the problem with the table because it was wobbly. I looked at it and saw what it was. You couldn't help but see it at that time. The table was wobbly. It wasn't lopsided." One of Dingman's supervisors told her not to worry about the condition of the table, it would be fixed.

Lucille Smith Jackson supervised the cashiers at the cafeteria at the time of the accident. She testified,

During the 30 days before the accident to [plaintiff], I observed that cash register D was shaky, very shaky and both legs were really shaky, but none of them were out of proportion that I could see, but I felt that they were going to collapse on someone. I reported what I had observed concerning the condition of cash register D to Mr. Pardue, my supervisor. . . . It was before the accident. I made communication to Mr. Pardue concerning the condition of this particular table quite a few times.

Robert Ernest Pardue, production manager of the cafeteria for ARA at the time of the accident, testified that he had talked to Royce Weatherly, defendant's superintendent of buildings, concerning the condition of the table under cash register "D." Pardue described the problem as "loose legs." He stated that "it looked like probably a screw was with -- one screw was holding them, and, . . ., then we'd knock them back under there and try to straighten them up. When I say 'we' I mean myself, or some other employee of ARA." If one looked for the problem, Pardue testified, one could see it. Weatherly came to the cafeteria on one occasion, looked at the table, and told Pardue, "'Yes, Bob, we've got to get this done.'" This conversation occurred "right in the neighborhood of the time that the accident happened, right before that . . . ." Pardue testified that he also telephoned Weatherly's office about the condition of the table on another occasion, but he never submitted a written request to have any work done on the table.

In her first assignment of error, plaintiff argues that the trial judge erred in refusing to allow the following testimony of Pardue:

Q. Do you recall approximately how many occasions you called Mr. Weatherly's office concerning the condition on cash register D?

A. The exact number I couldn't, I couldn't recall, but I would guess for you 4 or 5 times.

Mr. Comerford: Well, I object and move to strike.

The Court: How many times?

A. 4 or 5 times.

The Court: Sustained. Now don't consider that answer.

Q. Give your best recollection as to the number of times that you telephone Mr. Weatherly's office concerning the condition of cash register D?

A. 4. May I -- Your Honor -- May I clear this up?

The Court: Now, I will sustain the objection. I instruct you to strike that answer ...


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