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M & M PIPE AND PRESSURE VESSEL FABRICATORS, INC. v. STEVEN M. ROBERTS

SEPTEMBER 14, 1988

M & M PIPE AND PRESSURE VESSEL FABRICATORS, INC.
v.
STEVEN M. ROBERTS, ET AL., ETC.



BEFORE ROY NOBLE LEE, SULLIVAN AND ANDERSON

ANDERSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

This is an appeal of the verdict and judgment of the Circuit Court of Jackson County. Appellant, M & M Pipe and Pressure Vessel Fabricators, was found liable for damages resulting from a four-car accident that claimed the life of Karl Roberts, Jr., the appellees' father. For the reasons discussed below, we remand for a new hearing on the issue of damages only.

I.

 On the morning of May 22, 1984, David Buckler, an employee of M & M Pipe, was performing an errand for the company. He was driving the company owned 1978 pickup truck. It was undisputed that at the time of the accident, the brake lights on the truck were not working. Although the tail lights were functional, the red lenses covering the bulbs were broken out on both sides, causing their light to be very dim.

 During the course of his errand, it became necessary for Buckler to make a left turn off Industrial Road in Pascagoula. Because there was traffic in the oncoming lane, he came to a full stop before making his turn.

 Travelling in the same direction as the M & M truck was a 1980 Plymouth driven by Lindsey Dufek. Dufek's car was already dangerously close to the M & M truck when Dufek suddenly realized that the truck had stopped in order to make a left turn. Dufek applied her brakes, but the pavement was wet from a drizzle and the car went into a skid and began fishtailing. Dufek panicked and clamped her foot tight on the brake with the result that her car continued to skid into the adjacent right-hand lane where Michael O'Connor and his passenger Karl Roberts, Jr. had been driving parallel to her. There was a collision between the O'Connor car and the Dufek car. After impact the O'Connor car spun around into the oncoming lane, where it was struck on the passenger side by a southbound car driven by Wayne Kaminski. As a result of the second collision

 O'Connor's passenger, Karl Roberts, was apparently killed instantly.

 The plaintiffs, minor children of Karl Roberts, sued under the wrongful death statute through their mother and grandfather. Named as defendants were M & M, Buckler, Dufek, Kaminski and O'Connor. O'Connor settled before the trial. The jury returned verdicts for the defendants Wayne Kaminski and David Buckler, but found for the plaintiffs as against Lindsey Dufek and M & M Pipe. Dufek did not appeal, and M & M Pipe is the only defendant involved in this appeal.

 LIABILITY

 II.

 A. M & M Pipe offers three reasons why the trial court erred on the issue of liability. First, M & M argues that the trial court erred in refusing to direct the verdict or grant its motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, because any negligence attributable to M & M Pipe was not the proximate cause of the accident.

 Mississippi has many cases outlining its doctrine of proximate cause, and the doctrine they embody has been consistently applied over the years. A case cited in the appellant's brief, Mississippi City Lines v. Bullock, 194 Miss. 630, 13 So. 2d 34 (1943), is representative:

 Although one may be negligent, yet if another, acting independently and voluntarily, puts in motion another and intervening cause which efficiently thence leads in unbroken sequence to the injury, the latter is the proximate cause and the original negligence is relegated to the position of a remote and, therefore, a nonactionable cause. Negligence which merely furnishes the condition or occasion upon which injuries are received, but does not put in motion the agency by or through which the injuries are inflicted, is not the proximate cause thereof. The question is, did the facts constitute a succession of events so linked together as to make a natural whole, or was there some new and independent cause intervening between the alleged wrong and the injury? 38 Am. Jur. p. 702; Thompson v. Mississippi Cent. R. Co. 175 Miss. 547, 554, 166 So. 353. And so say all the authorities, among which, as a striking illustration, is Bufkin v. Louisville & N. R. Co. 161 Miss. 594, 137 So. 517.

 194 Miss. at 639, 640; 13 So. 2d at 36.

 Accord Touche Ross & Co. v. Commercial Union Ins. Co., 514 So. 2d 315, 323-34 (Miss. 1987); Blackmon v. Payne, 510 So. 2d 483, 487 (Miss. 1987); and Saucier v. Walker, 203 So. 2d 299, 304 (Miss. 1967).

 In cases involving the issue of an intervening cause, this Court has laid particular stress on the concept of" putting in motion ". That is, the original actor will not be absolved of liability because of a supervening cause if his negligence put in motion the agency by or through which injuries were inflicted. Capitol Tobacco & Specialty Co. v. Runnels. 221 So. 2d 703, 705 (Miss. 1969). See also, e.g., Blackmon v. Payne, supra, 510 So. 2d at 487; Robison v. McDowell 247 So. 2d 686, 688 (Miss. 1971); Simmons v. Amerada Hess Corp., 619 F.2d 440, 441 (5th Cir. 1980).

 And" if the occurrence of the intervening cause might reasonably have been anticipated, such intervening cause will not interrupt the connection between the original cause and injury. "Ross v. Louisville and Nashville RR., 178 Miss. 69, 84, 172 So. 752, 755 (1937). See also, e.g., Touche Ross v. Commercial Union, supra. 514 So. 2d at 323; Blackmon v. Payne, supra 510 So. 2d at 487; McCorkle v. United Gas Pipe Line Co., 253 Miss. 169, 188, 175 So. 2d 480, 489 (1965). In determining whether the actor's negligence was the proximate cause of the injury, it is not necessary that the actor should have foreseen the particular injury that happened; it is enough that he could have foreseen that his conduct could cause some injury. See, e.g., Nobles v. Unruh, 198 So. 2d 245, 248 (Miss. 1967); Cumberland Telephone & Telegraph Co. v. Woodham, 99 Miss. 318, 332, 54 So. 890, 891 (1911).

 Dufek's negligence, driving at too high a speed on a wet road, with worn tires and paying insufficient attention to traffic ahead, is certainly a foreseeable act of negligence. Indeed, it is precisely the type of negligence careful drivers of other vehicles must guard against. Under our existing case law Dufek's negligence was therefore not an intervening cause sufficient to cut off M & M's liability.

 This assignment of error is denied.

 B. M & M Pipe next argues that the trial court erred in granting to the appellees what amounted to a peremptory ...


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