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NOVEMBER 15, 1989





In this personal injury action brought in the Circuit Court of Washington County, Mississippi, the jury awarded the plaintiff damages in the amount of $5,652. The trial court, however, granted the defendant's subsequent motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. The plaintiff now appeals, assigning as error the trial court's granting of that motion.


 On December 28, 1983, the appellant, James M. Goodwin, slipped and fell on ice covering the driveway at defendant Specialty Supply Co.'s place of business in Greenville, Mississippi. For several days prior to this incident, the entire Greenville area had experienced severe winter weather, with the temperature ranging from a low of 4 degrees to a high of 27 degrees the three days immediately prior to December 28th. The Greenville area received sleet and freezing rain on the evening of December 26th and a light snowfall on the evening of December 27th. On the morning of December 28th, Goodwin went to Specialty Supply to purchase drainpipes for replacement of pipes under his house trailer. Goodwin was accompanied by Lamar Marcus, the man who was to replace the water pipes.

 Arriving at the appellee's place of business, Goodwin parked his red pickup truck on the street, in front of a private driveway adjacent to the business. The appellee's place of business, which faced east, had a front entrance with a hand rail. On the north side of the building was a driveway leading to a parking area. On this side of the building there were two doors, the westernmost of which was also used as an entrance. Beginning at the street, the driveway sloped upward for a few feet, then leveled off at a point east of the two side doors. Goodwin, accompanied by Lamar Marcus, walked up this driveway and entered the building from the side entrance.

 While they were in the store, someone announced that the person owning the red pickup truck needed to go out and move it, because it was blocking the private driveway. Goodwin went out the side door to move his truck, and when he reached the slanted area of the driveway, his feet slipped out from under him and he fell flat of his back on the ice.

 After the fall, Goodwin went back into the store and

 completed his purchase, then exited the building through the same side door and walked over the same ice to get back to his truck. On the second exit, Goodwin did not fall.

 Later that same day, Goodwin went to the emergency room of the Delta Medical Center, where a doctor examined him and concluded that Goodwin's back was bruised. The next day, Goodwin went back to the Delta Medical Center where he was x-rayed. The x-rays revealed that Goodwin had four fractured ribs. Although Goodwin saw several different doctors during the few weeks following his fall, he was not hospitalized. Goodwin's medical expenses totalled $652.82. Goodwin was 50 years old at the time the accident occurred.

 Goodwin brought suit against Specialty Supply Co., Inc., alleging that Specialty Supply had negligently permitted a hazardous condition to exist on its premises, in an area where it knew or should have known that the invited public would travel in entering and leaving the business. Goodwin alleged in his complaint that as a direct and proximate result of the appellee's negligence, he had received painful and disabling injuries. Goodwin sought damages in the amount of $75,000.

 Trial was held on November 17, 1986. At trial, Goodwin testified that he saw the ice on Specialty's premises when he arrived there and he could tell that nothing had been done to it. He stated, however, that he was experienced in walking on ice, having lived in Chicago for about three years. Goodwin, who along with his wife operated a convenience store, testified that after the accident he could no longer do his work at the store. He stated that it was approximately a year after the accident before he was completely free from pain, and that he was at the time of trial medically retired. Goodwin admitted on cross-examination that his medical retirement was a result of emphysema, asthma, and arthritis, conditions for which he had been treated before the accident occurred, and that his retirement had nothing to do with the broken ribs.

 At the close of the plaintiff's evidence, the appellee Specialty Supply Co. moved for a directed verdict. The trial judge overruled this motion. No testimony was presented by the appellee.

 Among the instructions given to the jury were a comparative negligence instruction and a peremptory instruction that the plaintiff James M. Goodwin was negligent. The jury apparently found that Goodwin's negligence was not the sole proximate cause of his injuries and awarded him $5,652 in damages. Following the trial, the appellee Specialty ...

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