This action to recover damages for personal injuries grows out of a collision involving three motor vehicles in Sweetwater County, Wyoming. A Pacific Intermountain Express truck was traveling in a westerly direction on U. S. Highway No. 30 between Rock Springs and Green River. A Buick automobile was driven by Joe E. Weimer in an easterly direction, followed by two passenger busses owned by Zanetti Bus Lines. There was considerable ice and snow on the road, which was described as being "extremely icy and slippery." The two busses, loaded with passengers, were traveling at speeds of 55 to 60 miles per hour. The driver of the first bus testified that his speed was reduced to about 45 miles per hour during the one and one-half or two miles which he followed the Weimer car, but the tachometer
Appellants first contend that there was insufficient evidence to sustain a finding that either of them was negligent. Section 31-130, Wyo.Stat.1957, (Supp.1961), provides in part:
As to the Weimer case, there was evidence that the car was being driven on an icy road at a speed of from 40 to 45 miles per hour. It first skidded and "fishtailed" when the truck was about 2,000 feet away, but the driver regained control and continued. There is no evidence that the speed of the car was reduced appreciably after the first skid until it again skidded and spun around to the left side of the highway where it was struck by the oncoming truck.
The rule in Wyoming is that when an automobile skids to the left side of a highway without fault of the driver there is no actionable negligence, but the burden rests on driver to show that he was without fault. Nelson v. Brames, 10 Cir., 241 F.2d 256; Butcher v. McMichael, Wyo., 370 P.2d 937; Wallis v. Nauman, 61 Wyo. 231, 157 P.2d 285. Cf. Dr. Pepper Co. v. Heiman, Wyo., 374 P.2d 206. Apparently the rule is based on the proposition that if the driver of a motor vehicle is driving on the wrong side in violation of the law of the road,
It is argued by Zanetti that the proximate cause of the collision between its bus and the truck was the skidding of the Weimer car, and that there was no evidence of negligence on its part which was a probable factor in the cause of the collision in which the plaintiff was injured. It is urged that regardless of the speed of the bus, the second collision could not have been avoided. It is true that the evidence is without conflict that the Zanetti bus, prior to the collision with the truck, was on its side of the road, and the bus driver had the right to assume that vehicles traveling in the opposite direction would observe the law of the road and remain on the right side thereof. Cimoli v. Greyhound Corp., Wyo., 372 P.2d 170; Dallason v. Buckmeier, 74 Wyo. 125, 284 P.2d 386; O'Mally v. Eagan, 43 Wyo. 233, 2 P.2d 1063, 77 A.L.R. 582, reh. den. 43 Wyo. 350, 5 P.2d 276, 77 A.L.R. 582. This rule, however, does not relieve the driver of a motor vehicle from using ordinary care to avoid an impending collision, and in many cases the finder of fact must determine whether, in view of all the circumstances, a driver exercised due care to avoid an accident, even though he remained on the proper side of the road. In Cimoli v. Greyhound Corp., supra, the Cimoli car was being driven in an easterly direction when a rear tire blew out, and the driver had difficulty keeping the car on the right side of the road. The driver of the Greyhound bus traveling in the opposite direction observed from a distance of approximately 900 feet that the Cimoli car was in trouble of some kind. He reduced his speed to about 35 miles per hour, and at the same time moved the vehicle to the extreme right side of the pavement. As the vehicles approached each other the Cimoli car remained near the center of the road until it reached a point about 450 feet from the point of collision. Then it gradually returned completely to the right side of the road, and continued there until about 120 feet away when it swerved abruptly to the left in front of the bus, which struck the right side of the car. The court held that a jury question was presented as to whether the driver of the Greyhound bus, after observing the difficulty of the Cimoli car, acted as a reasonable man under the circumstances in order to prevent a collision.
In the case at bar there is evidence that the Weimer car was from 150 to 250 feet ahead of the first Zanetti bus and that the second Zanetti bus was 200 to 300 feet behind the first bus when its brakes were first applied.
The evidence is without dispute that when the Weimer car and the two Zanetti busses were about to meet and pass the truck, the distance between the first and second Zanetti bus was from 200 to 300 feet. Section 31-108, Wyo. Stat.1957, provides:
In its instructions, the trial court read these sections, and stated:
It will be observed that this instruction is limited to Zanetti and could not be prejudicial to the Administratrix of the
We said in Grayson v. Williams, 10 Cir., 256 F.2d 61, 64-65:
Nelson v. Brames, supra; Nelson v. Brames, 10 Cir., 253 F.2d 381; Checker Yellow Cab Co. v. Shiflett, Wyo., 351 P.2d 660; Christensen v. McCann, 41 Wyo. 101, 282 P. 1061. In determining what constitutes proximate cause, the same principles are to be applied whether the negligence is alleged to be the violation of a statutory duty or a nonstatutory duty. 7 Am.Jur.2d, Automobiles & Highway Traffic § 375. "Proximate cause" has been defined as that "* * which in natural and continuous sequence, unbroken by any efficient intervening cause, produces the injury, and without which the result would not have occurred." Lemos v. Madden, 28 Wyo. 1, 200 P. 791, 793. In discussing the question of whether an injury was the natural and probable consequence of a negligent act, the Wyoming Supreme Court, in Frazier v. Pokorny, Wyo., 349 P.2d 324, 329, quoted 38 Am.Jur., Negligence § 57 with approval, as follows:
Cf. Garland v. Wilcox, 220 Or. 325, 348 P.2d 1091. The record does not disclose that the distance between the first and second Zanetti busses had any causal connection whatever to the second collision or that the collision would not have occurred if the first Zanetti bus had not been on the highway. The first bus was not involved in the collision between the truck and the second bus, which was traveling at all times in the proper lane of traffic and within the statutory speed limit. We cannot say that the giving of this instruction was not prejudicial to the defendant Zanetti. The jury could well have reasoned, under an instruction which permitted it to consider the violation of the "following too closely" statute, "together with all the other facts and circumstances of the case", that had the second bus been 1,000 feet back of the first bus, it would have been at a different place on the highway and the second collision might not have occurred. Under the circumstances, the violation of the statute created only a condition of the accident. The real cause of the collision lies elsewhere. 38 Am.Jur., Negligence § 166; O'Mally v. Eagan, supra; Hayes Freight Lines v. Wilson, 226 Ind. 1, 77 N.E.2d 580.
Zanetti excepted to the court's instruction on the duty of a driver of a motor vehicle to be on the lookout for others who may be using the highways.
The Administratrix of the Weimer Estate assigns as error the overruling of a motion for a mistrial which was based upon an answer to a question by one of plaintiff's witnesses. During cross-examination, the witness was interrogated concerning prior statements he had made to a Mr. Hughes. On redirect examination inquiry was made of the witness as to the identity of Hughes. The answer was: "I believe he was representing some insurance company." No objection was made to the question or answer. Later, outside the hearing of the jury, the motion for mistrial was made by Zanetti. In cases such as this, counsel should be careful not to invite answers which will indicate that insurance companies are or are not involved or interested in the outcome of the litigation, but inadvertent references are not generally grounds for mistrial or reversal. 20 Am.Jur., Evidence § 388; McCormick, Evidence, (1954) § 168, pp. 355-358. See, generally, Wigmore, Evidence, § 282a. The cross-examination was such that the jury was entitled to know the interest of the person to whom the statement was made, and the record does not indicate that in asking the question plaintiff's counsel intended any unfair advantage or that the answer was prejudicial to the defendant-administratrix. Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Wedgeworth, 5 Cir., 252 F.2d 759; Cotter v. McKinney, 7 Cir., 309 F.2d 447; Sphatt v. Tulley, 38 Ill.App.2d 229, 186 N.E.2d 670; Marken v. Empire Drilling Co., 75 Wyo. 121, 293 P.2d 406; Anno. 4 A.L.R. 2d 820.
No issue is presented here by either party as to the amount of the verdict and the judgment entered thereon. We find no error in the trial as to the defendant-administratrix of Weimer's Estate. The only prejudicial error was the giving of the instruction on the Wyoming "following too closely" statute, which relates only to the liability of Zanetti. This, we think, would have no bearing on the amount of the jury's award and that there will be no injustice or unfairness to either party in requiring a retrial on the issue of liability only. Satter v. Turner, 251 Minn. 1, 86 N.W.2d 85, 66 A.L.R.2d 1178; Anno. 34 A.L.R. 2d 988. Cf. Studer v. Rasmussen, 80 Wyo. 465, 344 P.2d 990. 28 U.S.C. § 2106 gives broad powers to Federal courts of appellate jurisdiction to affirm, modify, vacate, set aside, or reverse judgments or decrees and to remand causes of action to the district court for further proceedings as are just under the circumstances. We are convinced that this is a classic case for the exercise of that power. Thompson v. Camp, 6 Cir., 167 F.2d 733. See notes to decisions, N. 344, 28 U.S. C.A. § 2106.
The judgment against Nellie Horton as Administratrix of the Estate of Joe E. Weimer, Deceased, is affirmed. The judgment against Zanetti Bus Lines, Inc., is reversed and remanded for a new trial only upon the issue of liability.
"However, the fact that plaintiff may have reduced his speed to between 30 and 35 miles an hour after passing defendant's car must not be overlooked. And while the negligence of defendant is not at issue upon this appeal, still the evidence seems undisputed that defendant was also traveling at a speed of between 30 and 35 miles an hour, following plaintiff's car at a distance of between 250 and 300 feet at the time plaintiff's car went into its spinning. In any event it seems conclusively established that both cars were being driven at speeds of as much as 35 miles an hour when plaintiff's car went out of control, and it was the province of the trier of fact to determine whether, under all the facts and circumstances present at the time, the driving of a car at that speed was negligence."
"This presents the very exemplification of the rule of law that a person is charged with seeing that which is there to be seen the same as though the person looked and saw what was there to be seen. Taking together the statements of defendant as to her actions and the statements of Pamela's mother and sister as to the presence of the unfortunate child, there was substantial evidence to charge defendant with the duty of seeing what was there for defendant to see, and the failure to do so would justify a jury in concluding defendant was negligent."
"There are a few rules of the road which I will read to you. I charge you that it is the duty of drivers upon the public highway to look ahead and see persons and vehicles and other objects in their line of vision, and in case of an accident they will be conclusively presumed to have seen what they could and should have seen in the proper performance of their duties."