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ARNOLD v. CHUPP, by Next Friend.
Damages. Before Judge Wood. Fulton Superior Court. December 19, 1955.
1. The charge of the court as to certain statutory provisions, while inapt, could not have misled the jury as concluded into giving the plaintiff the benefit of certain contentions not urged by him.
2. (a) A driver of an automobile upon whom a statutory duty rests to observe certain requirements before proceeding to the left side of the road in an attempt to pass another vehicle cannot escape liability for negligence resulting in the injury of a third person in so passing merely by showing that he erroneously relied upon another to signal to him whether the road ahead was clear instead of ascertaining this fact before blocking the highway.
(b) As between one relying on the custom, and a third party injured thereby, evidence of a custom of giving to motor traffic signals mechanically installed on vehicles a meaning different from that provided by law is inadmissible where the meaning attributed to the signal by custom is in direct conflict with that attributed to it by statute, since such conflict of meanings would be obviously dangerous, and since custom cannot change the statute law. Such evidence, when introduced without objection, constitutes no defense. Accordingly refusal of the court to give the requests to charge this theory of general custom and practice based on evidence thereof admitted without objection is without error.
3. While the Nonresident Motorist Act provides that the venue of actions brought thereunder shall be either in the county where the injury occurs or that where the plaintiff resides waives any lack of jurisdiction over the person and cannot be heard for the first time on appeal to raise the question as to whether the venue of the action has been proved in accordance with the statute.
and James Hoyte Arnold, nonresidents of the State of Georgia, who were served by service upon the Secretary of State, alleging in substance that the plaintiff was a guest passenger in an automobile belonging to his uncle which was proceeding in a southerly direction on its own right-hand side of the road approximately 3 miles north of Milner, Georgia, when the automobile belonging to James R. Arnold and driven by his son, the other defendant, proceeding north on the same highway at about 1:30 a. m., suddenly cut out from behind a truck into the line of traffic of the automobile in which the plaintiff was a guest and collided with it head-on inflicting described injuries on the plaintiff.
Upon the trial of the case the evidence is undisputed that the defendant's car, proceeding at a lawful rate of speed had been following a truck for a mile or more, that the defendant noticed that the driver of this truck made a signal with his left blinker light, that he took this as a signal to pass, that as he started to cut out around the truck the driver thereof gave him a hand signal motioning him forward, that at this moment he noticed both that there was a car approaching him on the highway and that there was a large van in front of the truck he was passing. The defendant driver testified that he was unable to get back on the right-hand side of the road between the truck and the van, and he did not attempt to get onto the left-hand shoulder. The ear in which the plaintiff was riding, and in which he was asleep on the back seat, attempted to stop but the two automobiles collided head-on.
A verdict was returned in favor of the plaintiff. The defendant James Hoyte Arnold filed a motion for a new trial on the general grounds which was later amended by the addition of various special grounds, certain of which are abandoned and others insisted upon. The denial of this motion is assigned as error.
1. In special ground 6 it is contended that the trial court gage the plaintiff the benefit of a contention not pleaded or pressed by him. The court charged certain statutes, prefacing this portion of his instructions by the statement: "Among the acts of negligence charged by the plaintiff in his petition are certain acts which he charges were a violation of the laws of Georgia." The court then charged statute law relating to two charges of negligence per se on the part of the defendants. He then charged: "Then there was in effect at the time and place of the occurrence set out and described and alleged in this petition the following statutory regulations: An operator intending to start, stop, or to turn his vehicle to the left or right shall extend the hand and over and beyond the left side of the vehicle in the following manner, and such signal shall indicate as follows: 1. Left turn--hand and arm extended horizontally . . ." etc. If the charge were such, in connection with the evidence and theories urged on the trial of the case, as to possibly mislead the jury into thinking that the plaintiff was charging the defendants with negligence in giving an improper signal, which was a contention not made by them, this would be error. Ergle v. Davidson, 69 Ga. App. 102 (24 S. E. 2d 810). Since all the evidence regarding signals related to such as were given by the driver of the truck around which one of the defendants was passing, obviously the jury would not have confused the charge relating thereto with any contention of the plaintiff that the defendant was guilty of negligence per se by having given or failed to give any such signal. However, the evidence relating to the giving of such a signal by a third party made the charge applicable to the evidence in the case. Although its location in the charge is not such as to make the instruction by the court to the jury on this subject entirely clear, it is such that when construed with the whole charge and in connection with the evidence the jury plainly could not have been misled thereby. Accordingly, it could not have been prejudicial and the exception to this portion of the charge is without merit.
2. Special grounds 8, 9, 10 and 11 contend that the court erred in refusing certain written requests to charge. The substance of the requests is that where an act or omission is the general custom and practice, it is admissible in evidence to show the act or omission is reasonable under the circumstances; that a customary practice is presumed to be such as an ordinary or reasonably prudent person would do under the circumstances; that the defendant contends he passed the truck in question after receiving a signal from the driver that the way ahead was clear and that in so acting he was not negligent; that it would be the jury's province to decide whether the defendant driver acted as all ordinarily reasonable and prudent man would act under the same circumstances, and if they found that he did so the plaintiff would not be entitled to recover.
Nor can the defendant driver rely as an absolute defense upon the fact that the driver of the lead truck motioned him on around. The duty to see that the road ahead was clear before passing rested upon the driver of the automobile and no one else. He had no more right to rely upon the voluntary act of the truck driver than he would have had to drive a car blindfolded, relying upon some person sitting next to him to instruct him as to how he ought to steer. If it should be said that he adopted the driver of the lead vehicle as his agent to instruct him when the way ahead was clear, then clearly he would be liable to a person injured by the negligent act of such agent. What is here said relates to situations where parties other than the person giving the signal and the one relying upon it are involved, for, as to such third persons, one cannot delegate a statutory duty so as to escape negligence and the consequences of negligence resulting from such delegation.
Nothing herein is in conflict with what is held by this court in the Shirley case, supra. Concurrent tortfeasors may become jointly and severally liable to a third person whom they injure by their combined negligence. However, one of them may be liable to the other growing out of the same transaction, in which case the negligence of the plaintiff does not bar recovery if it be less than that of the defendant, add the plaintiff's negligence is not such as to amount to the failure to exercise ordinary care to avoid the consequences to himself caused by the defendant's negligence, after the danger became apparent or was reasonably to be apprehended, all of which ordinarily constitute jury questions.
3. The general grounds are insisted upon to the extent that it is contended no proper venue was shown and for that reason the verdict should be set aside. The action was brought against a nonresident motorist under the provisions of Code (Ann. Supp.) Ch. 68-8. Code (Ann. Supp.) 68-803 provides that the venue of such actions shall be either the county where the injury occurred or the county where the plaintiff resides, as he may elect. The record negates the action having been brought in the county where the injury occurred but is silent as to the county of the plaintiff's residence. Where the court has jurisdiction of the subject matter, jurisdiction of the person may be waived. Epps & Leabow v. Buckmaster, 104 Ga. 698 (30 S. E. 959). One who appears and pleads to the merits without excepting to the jurisdiction thereby admits the jurisdiction of the court over his person. Code 81-503. The defendants appeared, pleaded and defended upon the trial of the case, all without questioning the jurisdiction and venue of the action. Accordingly, they cannot for the first time on appeal raise this question.
The trial court did not err in denying the motion for a new trial as amended.
Judgment affirmed. Gardner, P. J., and Carlisle, J., concur.
Cullen M. Ward, Dudley Cook, contra.
Burt DeRieux, Marshall, Greene & Neely, for plaintiff in error.
Saturday May 23 02:14 EDT

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