Heard in the Supreme Court September 9, 2014
For E. Gregory Stott for plaintiff-appellant and third-party defendant-appellant.
For Brown, Crump, Vanore & Tierney, L.L.P., by Orlando L. Rodriguez, for defendant/third-party plaintiff-appellee.
BEASLEY, Justice. Justice ERVIN did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.
On discretionary review pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 7A-31 of a unanimous, unpublished decision of the Court of Appeals, ___ N.C.App. __, 752 S.E.2d 260 (2013), affirming the trial court's judgment entered on 6 August 2012 and an order entered on 9 August 2012, both by Judge Christine M. Walczyk
in District Court, Wake County.
We consider whether the Court of Appeals erred in affirming the trial court's denial of plaintiff's claim for damages when a jury found defendant and third-party defendant were both negligent in the operation of their vehicles and whether the Court of Appeals created a new theory of motor vehicle law. Because there was sufficient evidence from which the jury could have found both defendant and third-party defendant negligent, the Court of Appeals properly affirmed the trial court's denial of plaintiff's claim and dismissal of plaintiff and third-party defendant's motion for a new trial. We affirm.
This action arose out of an automobile collision in which plaintiff's son, third-party defendant, Justin Michael Ward (hereinafter " Ward" ), operated a 1991 Mercedes owned by his mother, plaintiff Sheena Moody Ward on 5 January 2011 at approximately 6:00 p.m. At the time, Ward traveled east on Spring Forest Road in Raleigh, North Carolina. At the same time, defendant, Luis Enrique Carmona (hereinafter " defendant" ), operated a 1999 Plymouth van traveling west on Spring Forest Road. These two vehicles collided in the intersection of Spring Forest Road and Departure Drive. Plaintiff filed suit on 15 March 2011 against defendant seeking damages for his alleged negligence. On 26 May 2011, defendant filed an answer and third-party complaint, naming Ward as a third-party defendant.
Ward testified to the following during trial. He stated that he intended to make a left turn at a traffic light at the intersection of Departure Drive and Spring Forest Road. Ward stated in his testimony that as he approached the intersection of Spring Forest Road and Departure Drive, the traffic light was green. To determine whether it was safe to make a left turn, he testified that he came to a complete stop at some point at or in the intersection. After Ward waited at the traffic light for several seconds, the traffic light changed to red. Ward testified his view of oncoming traffic was unobstructed. When he attempted to turn left, Ward knew the traffic light was red. As Ward attempted to complete a left turn onto Departure Drive, Ward's vehicle and defendant's vehicle collided in the intersection.
There were inconsistencies in defendant's testimony regarding the color of the traffic light when he proceeded through the intersection. On direct and cross-examination, defendant repeatedly testified that the light was green as he entered the intersection; however, on cross-examination, at the request of plaintiff's attorney, defendant read his response to a previous interrogatory in which he stated that the light " turned yellow when [he] was approximately eight (8) feet away" from the intersection. Additionally, several exhibits offered by defendant were admitted into evidence. A jury found both defendant and Ward negligent and denied plaintiff any relief. As a result, the trial court ordered that plaintiff recover nothing in a 6 August 2012 amended judgment. The trial court also denied plaintiff and Ward's motion for a new trial. Plaintiff and Ward both appealed the judgment and the order denying their motion for a new trial to the Court of Appeals.
In its opinion, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's order denying the motion for a new trial, concluding that there was sufficient evidence for a jury to find both defendant and Ward negligent. Ward v. Carmona, ___ N.C.App. __, 752 S.E.2d 260, 2013 WL 5629388 at *10 (2013) (unpublished). Plaintiff and Ward petitioned this Court for discretionary review which was allowed on 6 March 2014.
This appeal raises two issues: (1) whether the jury's verdict finding that both defendant and Ward negligently operated their vehicles was contrary to the greater weight of the evidence and, therefore, erroneous as a matter of law, and (2) whether the opinion of the Court of Appeals created a new ...