The opinion of the court was delivered by: Legge, Justice.
This is an action for damages for personal injuries sustained by the plaintiff on the night of Saturday, October 11, 1952, when the automobile in which he was riding left the paved highway (Route S31-22) on which it had been traveling, and struck a tree and a barn. The complaint alleged negligence on the part of the defendant in the following particular:
"(a) In constructing and maintaining said state highway without erecting and maintaining proper or any signs, signals or warning devices to warn the plaintiff and the driver of the automobile in which he was riding and others using said highway of the approach of said curve and of the other defects existing in said highway, as hereinafter set forth;
"(b) In constructing and maintaining said state highway with a curve in same, which was too sharp for the safety of the public traveling thereon;
"(c) In constructing and maintaining said state highway with a sharp curve in same and without being sufficiently banked on said curve;
"(d) In constructing and maintaining said highway with large roots of a hickory tree within the right-of-way of said highway, all of which made said highway a hazard for the public traveling thereon;
"(e) In constructing and maintaining said state highway with soft shoulders and without any signs or notices to warn the traveling public of the existence of the same;
"(f) In constructing and maintaining said state highway with shoulders too narrow for the safety of the public traveling thereon;
"(g) In failing to construct and maintain said state highway at the time and place in question with shoulders thereon sufficiently wide to protect the users of said highway".
Defendant's motions for non-suit and for direction of verdict were overruled. Of the specifications of negligence above quoted, b, c and d were, upon defendant's motion, stricken at the conclusion of the testimony as being without evidentiary support. Verdict was for the plaintiff; and the defendant has appealed on numerous exceptions charging, among other things, that the trial judge erred in refusing its motions for non-suit and direction of verdict upon the ground that the evidence failed to show actionable negligence on its part.
Route S31-22 is a farm-to-market road between Lamar in Darlington County, and Bishopville, some 15 miles to the west, in the adjoining county of Lee. The paved portion of the road is twenty (20') feet wide, and on either side is an unpaved shoulder about four (4') feet in width. Some seven (7) miles west of Lamar, the road curves northward, or to the right from the standpoint of one driving toward Bishopville. At this point, and for some distance to the east of it (i.e. in the direction of Lamar), the road is on a low fill. To the south of the road, near the Lamar end of the curve, and twenty-nine (29') feet from the edge of the paved roadway, is a hickory tree; between the tree and the highway is a dirt road; and forty-eight (48') or fifty (50') feet west of the tree is a barn, the nearest point of which is twenty-five (25') feet from the edge of the paved roadway. Photographs of the locus introduced into the evidence by the plaintiff show that the land adjacent to the inside of the curve, on the right of the road, as one travels from Lamar towards Bishopville, is an open field, so that view of the curve is unobstructed for much of its length. It is undisputed that there were no signals or markers indicating the curve. As to whether there was a center-line painted on the pavement, the testimony is conflicting.
The Ford automobile, practically new, was occupied by four young people, all of whom lived in or near Lamar. Charles Windham, its owner, was driving, and in the front seat with him was his "date", Ernestine Andrews. In the rear seat were James Turner and the plaintiff, James E. Hoffman. They were on their way from Lamar to Lucknow, some six (6) miles beyond Bishopville, where they were to pick up Hoffman's "date", and then they were going back to a dance at Bishopville.
The plaintiff testified that as they were approaching the curve he saw the bright lights of a car coming towards them; that these lights blinded both him and Windham; that Windham, still on the "straightaway" and about six hundred (600) feet from the center of the curve, drove the car over to the right and off the paved roadway; and that "I felt a jerk and bumping along and when he pulled it back on the road it just went straight on off". He "guess" that the speed of the car at the time of the accident was about fifty or fifty-five miles an hour. After the car went off the left side of the road, he knew nothing until he woke up lying beside the barn.
Charles Windham, who "imagined" that he was driving "around 50 or 55" when the accident happened, testified as follows: "Well, we was driving along and met this car and its lights were bright and I pulled over to the right so I would give him a lot of room to pass to keep from hitting us and I ran off the road and I felt it drop bump and I pulled a little to the left and come back on the road and in just a second over the embankment". He also testified on direct examination that the distance from the point where his car went off on the ...