Frye v. Anderson Columbia, Co., Inc., 988 So. 2d 61 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2008)
This case arose out of two single-vehicle accidents at an intersection controlled by a stop sign in Jacksonville, Florida.
This lawsuit was brought by Melissa Joyner, the wife of the deceased driver of the first accident, and Sandra Frye, the wife of the deceased driver in the second accident. The accidents involved two single-vehicle accidents, both which resulted in the tragic deaths of the drivers. Both single-vehicle accidents occurred at the same intersection within a 12 hour period while the intersection was undergoing construction. The claims hinged upon the issue of whether the stop sign at the intersection was properly placed. The accidents demonstrated that the stop sign post was broken off at the bottom, and subsequently had been placed back in the ground despite the fact that the sign was about half the normal length. The fact that the stop sign was broken alone should have triggered the sign to be replaced. Evidence taken from the intersection demonstrated that the stop sign had been repositioned three times over the span of the weekend the accidents occurred. At the time of the first accident, the stop sign was placed about 8 feet away from the side of the road, and at the time of the second accident, the sign was moved to about 18 feet from the side of the road.
The trial court entered judgment in favor of the construction company concluding that the weight of the evidence allowed the court to draw the conclusion that the sign had been properly placed and was in clear view of the road at the time of the fatal collisions. On appeal the First Circuit begged to differ stating that from the evidence presented, any reasonable person could clearly infer that the sign was damaged, placed too far from the side of the intersection at the time of both accidents. Furthermore, because the sign was too low and too far, the conclusion that the sign was not clearly visible could have easily been drawn. The court stated that the lower court had erred in declining Frye’s case to be decided by the jury by granting summary judgment in favor of the Anderson Columbia Co. The evidence in this case permitted different reasonable conclusions to be made regarding which party negligence had caused the death of the two unsuspecting motorists. Only if the evidence painted a picture that so obviously pointed to the drivers bearing the entire blame for the accidents, then the trial court could have rightfully taken the decision out of the hands of a jury.
The takeaway from this case is that although the driver involved in a single-vehicle accident is usually at fault, the driver is not always the single cause of the accident. The accident must be evaluated by the totality of circumstances where negligence should not be automatically imposed on the driver, especially to the extent that even clear evidence that demonstrates the possibility of another cause is completely disregarded from the unwillingness to look past the only person involved in the crash.
If you’ve been involved in an accident and have questions about what to do next, you should contact the Fort Lauderdale accident attorneys of Madalon Law. Consultations are free and they will gladly go over your case with you.