DONNIE L. GOINS and JACKIE KNAPP, Plaintiffs,
TIME WARNER CABLE SOUTHEAST, LLC, and WAKE ELECTRIC MEMBERSHIP CORPORATION d/b/a WAKE ELECTRIC, Defendants.
in the Court of Appeals 16 October 2017.
by Defendant from judgment entered 8 August 2016 and order
entered 30 September 2016 by Judge Elaine M. O'Neal in
Wake County Superior Court No. 14 CVS 15229.
& Jones, P.L.L.C., by H. Forest Horne and Huntington M.
Willis, for the Plaintiffs-Appellees.
Hedrick Gardner Kincheloe & Garofalo, LLP, by Thomas M.
Buckley and Joshua D. Neighbors, for the Defendant-Appellant.
L. Goins and Jackie Knapp (together, "Plaintiffs")
brought this action seeking damages sustained when they each
(at different times) collided with a utility line owned by
Time Warner Cable Southeast, LLC, ("Defendant")
that was lying at ground level in a public roadway. The jury
found that Defendant was negligent and that neither Plaintiff
was contributorily negligent. Defendant appeals from the
trial court's judgment entered based on the jury's
verdict and from the trial court's subsequent denial of
its Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict
("JNOV"). We agree with Defendant that, based on
our jurisprudence, the trial court committed reversible error
by instructing the jury on the sudden emergency doctrine, an
instruction which provided a theory by which the jury could
determine that neither Plaintiff was contributorily
negligent. Specifically, there was no evidence to support the
instruction. Accordingly, we vacate the judgment entered by
the trial court and remand the matter for a new trial.
evidence presented at trial tended to show the following:
January 2014, severe weather caused a utility line belonging
to Defendant to fall from its poles. That same day, Defendant
was notified of the fallen line.
following morning, Donnie Goins ("Plaintiff Goins")
was cycling and was severely injured when his front tire made
impact with the line, which was still lying in the roadway. A
short time later, Jackie Knapp ("Plaintiff Knapp")
was cycling when a cyclist directly in front of her struck
the wire and wrecked. Plaintiff Knapp was unable to stop
before colliding with him, resulting in a pile-up and causing
Plaintiff Knapp to sustain severe injuries.
ultimately found Defendant responsible for both
Plaintiffs' injuries, and the trial court entered
judgment on the verdict and denied Defendant's subsequent
motion for JNOV. Defendant now appeals.
contends that the trial court erred in two respects. First,
Defendant argues that the trial court should never have
allowed the issue of Plaintiff Knapp's contributory
negligence to reach the jury, contending that Plaintiff Knapp
was contributorily negligent as a matter of law. Second,
Defendant argues that a jury instruction regarding ...