JOHN R. BROWN, Chief Judge:
Appellants' son, David Wallace, Jr., was killed on the morning of June 8, 1973, when the motorcycle he was riding collided with the rear of a tractor-trailer which was stopped in the right lane of two east-bound traffic lanes of U. S. Highway 78, about five miles east of Tallapoosa, Georgia. Appellants brought this diversity action under the Georgia Wrongful Death Act, Ga.Code Ann. § 105-1301 et seq., alleging negligence against Ener, the driver of the tractor-trailer, Western Lines, Inc., his employer, and T. M. Kellum, the owner of the vehicle. A jury returned a verdict for the defendants-appellees, and this appeal followed. Appellants assign as error the District Court's failure to give various instructions to the jury and its exclusion of certain evidence. We find the appellants' contentions to be without merit and affirm.
The tractor-trailer, which was on an interstate haul, ran out of gas — the fuel gage was inoperative — about 4:00 a. m. and came to rest half way up a long, straight incline, about 500 feet beyond the point at which the normally two-lane highway adds a third lane for slower
At the outset we are met by appellees' contention that appellants did not object to various jury instructions in compliance with F.R.Civ.P. 51
5A Moore's Federal Practice ¶ 51.04 (2d Ed. 1948). See Harlem Taxicab Ass'n v. Nemesh, 1951, 89 U.S.App.D.C. 123, 191 F.2d 459. In this case, appellants' objections to several specific aspects of the instructions in the post-charge, pre-deliberation conference clearly satisfy F.R. Civ.P. 51. St. Joe Paper Co. v. Hartford Accident & Indemnity Co., 5 Cir., 1967, 376 F.2d 33 (Petition for Further Rehearing); Sharp v. Root, 5 Cir., 1957, 240 F.2d 519; cf. Buckley v. Valley Camp Coal Co., 4 Cir., 1963, 324 F.2d 244. Appellants' assignments of error in charging the jury which were not raised in conference were the subject of written requests to charge the jury which appellants had previously filed with the District Court and which the Court refused. Our review of these requests to charge and the authorities cited there-with satisfy us that they were sufficient to make appellants' position clear to the trial judge and to inform him of possible error in the instructions which he subsequently
One of appellants' theories of recovery was that appellees were negligent per se in that the tractor-trailer was stopped in violation of Ga.Code Ann. § 68-1670(a)(15), which prohibits anyone from stopping or parking any motor vehicle within 12 feet of the "center line" of a state highway. Appellants contend that the determination of the location of the center line is a matter of law and that the District Court erroneously left this determination up to the jury. Furthermore, appellants requested the District Court to instruct the jury that the center line for purposes of the statute is the intermittent white line dividing the two east-bound lanes rather than the double yellow lines dividing the west lane from the east-bound lanes. The District Court, however, simply instructed the jury in the words of the statute, making no comment on the legal location of the center line.
The location of the center line in Georgia is a question of law which must not be left to the determination of the jury. Smith v. Nelson, 123 Ga.App. 712, 182 S.E.2d 332 (1971). Although the District Court could have been more specific, its reference to "the center line" left little doubt that it was referring to the traffic markings — double yellow lines — which divide west from east-bound traffic. The term "center line" naturally refers to these traffic markings. The District Court in no way invited the jury to determine that the center line could be other than the double yellow lines, as did the Court in Smith v. Nelson, supra.
In addition, the District Court correctly located the center line at the double yellow lines dividing traffic rather than at the intermittent white line dividing the two east-bound lanes. Under Georgia law, the center line of a road must be related to traffic lane markings. Smith v. Nelson, supra. In Smith, the center line was determined to be the solid white line which divided one south-bound lane from two north-bound lanes, rather than a line equidistant from the sides of the road. Appellants contend that the intermittent white line dividing the two east-bound lanes must be regarded as the center line in this case in order to avoid the "absurd result" of permitting parking in the outer east-bound lane under the statute. Appellants rely on Pittman v. Staples, 95 Ga.App. 187, 97 S.E.2d 630 (1957) in which the Court refused to place the center line at the middle of the median of a four-lane divided highway because this would have made the statute "an absurdity" and allowed one to "park a truck in the very center of the traveled portion of such road." Id. at 635. Appellants' reliance on Pittman is misplaced. There, to avoid all the absurdity of which it spoke, the Court could have located the center line at the intermittent white lines dividing the inner from the outer lanes, but it did not. Instead, it followed the traffic markings and located the center line where the median
Appellants next contend that the District Court determined that the tractor-trailer was "disabled" rather than simply parked and instead should have left this determination for the jury, and that the District Court's instructions included an incorrect standard of what constitutes disablement excusing a violation of § 68-1670(a)(15). A careful reading of the record, set out in note 2, supra, clearly shows that the District Court properly left the question of whether the vehicle was legally disabled or not up to the jury. The portion of the quoted District Court's instruction regarding the exculpatory effect of disablement is taken verbatim from the opinion in O'Pry v. Goodman, 132 Ga.App. 191, 207 S.E.2d 674 (1974). We disagree with appellants' position that the language in O'Pry — indicating that a disabled vehicle need only park as far from the center line as reasonably possible under the existing circumstances (Id. at 677) — applies only where it is physically impossible to park more than 12 feet from the center line. Though this may have been the rule under the earlier case of Kelly v. Locke, 186 Ga. 620, 198 S.E. 754 (1938), cited by the O'Pry Court, the plain language in O'Pry can only be read as modifying that rule.
Appellants next challenge the District Court's failure to give instructions on three issues related to the question of appellants' son's own negligence. First, the District Court denied appellants' request to charge the jury that "one who may illegally and negligently place another person in danger is not entitled to the protection of the assumption that that other person will not be negligent." R. at 16. Appellants rely on Northern Freight Lines, Inc. v. Southern Ry. Co., 108 Ga.App. 189, 132 S.E.2d 541 (1963). That case did require such a charge be given, but only because the Court had charged, for the other party, that one may assume that another will not act negligently. The Court's error was in that light alone. Here, the District Court gave no charge that the appellee trucker might assume that the decedent would act in a prudent manner, and the need for the corrective charge in Northern Freight Lines does not exist. The District Court correctly denied the requested charge.
Second, the District Court refused to charge the jury that it could not infer any negligence on the part of the decedent but would have to have evidence that the dead motorcyclist both actually saw and understood the danger presented by the stopped tractor-trailer. Appellants' request relied on Williams v. United States, 5 Cir., 1967, 379 F.2d 719, and the statute which it construes.
Third, the District Court refused to amend its charge concerning the decedent's possible negligence under the "last clear chance" doctrine, contrary to appellants' request that the jury be instructed that the appellee trucker could also be found to have neglected his own "last clear chance" to avoid the accident. Appellants argue that, since the trucker either actually was or had a legal duty to be behind his truck to ward off vehicles which might negligently fail to avoid his truck, he had the last chance to avoid this accident by waving the dead motorcyclist off. The trucker's negligence — in parking too close to the center line, failing to take adequate precautions after stopping, or in running out of gas in the first place — was a question for the jury. A separate issue was the trucker's ability to avoid the accident after his own initial negligence and after decedent's assumed contributory negligence. There was uncontroverted evidence that the appellee trucker was in front of his truck at the time of the accident to discuss assistance from another trucker, and the appellee trucker's legal duty was not to remain behind his vehicle but to cause it to be removed from the roadway as soon as possible. See note 2, supra, and Ga.Code Ann. § 68-1668(b). This case is therefore distinguishable from Bryant v. Hall, 5 Cir., 1956, 238 F.2d 783, 788-89, where the defendant was under a statutory duty to watch for other travelers and to determine the safety of any turn. The District Court correctly withheld from the jury's determination whether the trucker actually "knew or should have known" of the deceased's "dangerous situation in sufficient time to avoid the collision." Id. at 789.
Appellants next contend that the District Court erroneously instructed the jury concerning appellees' duties under the Department of Transportation's Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, 49 CFR § 392.22 and § 393.95.
Appellants' final two assignments of error concern the District Court's refusal to admit into evidence the results of core borings of the road shoulder and the Georgia counterpart of the United States Department of Transportation's Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. The admissibility of evidence is within the sound discretion of the District Court, Stancill v. McKenzie Tank Lines, Inc., 5 Cir., 1974, 497 F.2d 529; Bailey v. Kawasaki-Kisen, K.K., 5 Cir., 1972, 455 F.2d 392, and even if error is found it must of course rise above the threshold of harmless error. The District Court was well within the limits of its discretion in excluding the results of core borings offered by appellants to demonstrate both the actual and apparent support capability of the road shoulder. The issue is not whether appellee trucker actually could have pulled off the road onto the shoulder without bogging down or turning over, but whether or not it appeared to a reasonable man under similar circumstances to be practical to do so. Though the actual composition of the road shoulder could have some bearing on the appearance of the surface of the shoulder, the District Court may reasonably have concluded this to be too fine a distinction for a jury to keep in mind.
The District Court also excluded the Georgia Public Service Commission Laws and Rules, issued Jan. 1, 1973, which adopt the Department of Transportation's Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, 49 CFR §§ 390-98 (which were admitted into evidence). Though the state and federal provisions are naturally identical, appellants argue that the state
Now, the Code of the State of Georgia provides that it shall be unlawful for any person to stop or park any automobile, truck, tractor, trailer, or other motor vehicle, or horse-drawn vehicle, on or along any state-aid road or highway, unless such vehicle be placed so that it is at least 12 feet removed from the center line of such state-aid road or highway, and such vehicle shall be so parked that no portion thereof shall be within 12 feet of the center line of such state-aid road or highway.
Now, in connection with that law, I charge you that the fact that the vehicle was disabled and could be moved to some other place only by towing is a condition or fact to be considered, and, if that should be found to be the truth of the matter, a reasonable construction of the statute would excuse the operator of the disabled vehicle if it appeared that he had parked it as far from the center line as reasonably possible under the existing circumstances and proceeded with reasonable diligence to procure the means of towing the vehicle away. R. at 68-69.
The question of decedent's negligence was thus governed by Ga.Code Ann. § 105-603: