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HUNTER v. DIXIE HOME STORES

December 11, 1957

MATTIE LEE HUNTER, RESPONDENT,
v.
DIXIE HOME STORES, APPELLANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Moss, Justice.

December 11, 1957.

This is an action by Mattie Lee Hunter, the respondent herein, to recover damages for personal injuries sustained as a result of falling on the floor of a self service store operated by the appellant, Dixie Home Stores. The trial resulted in a verdict for the respondent for actual and punitive damages. This appeal can be disposed of by determining whether or not there was sufficient evidence of negligence on the part of the appellant to require submission of the case to the jury. It should be stated that at appropriate stages of the trial the appellant made motions for nonsuit, directed verdict, judgment non obstante veredicto, and alternatively for a new trial.

The complaint charged the appellant with negligent, careless, reckless and wanton conduct in failing to properly inspect the floor of its store and to remove therefrom debris that would cause the respondent to fall; in failing to place some warning where debris was likely to be; in failing to provide proper receptacles for fresh vegetables and produce, thereby avoiding overstacking of same and preventing debris from falling to the floor, and in failing to provide an attendant at the location of the fresh vegetable counter to supervise the handling of such and to avoid debris falling to the floor. The appellant denied the allegations of the complaint and, on the contrary, alleged that the respondent was guilty of sole and contributory negligence, carelessness, willfullness and wantonness.

It appears that on December 6, 1954 the respondent entered the store of the appellant in Florence, South Carolina, for the purpose of purchasing a pound of butter. It appears also that the vegetable bin was between the place where the butter was on display and the point where the respondent entered the store. The respondent testified that as she walked along the aisle near the vegetable bin, that she stepped on some green beans, causing her to fall and injure her left leg.

The respondent testified that when she entered the store of the appellant she saw a Mrs. Wiggins who was cashier for the appellant. She was standing near the cash register. We quote from the testimony of the respondent as follows:

"Q. When you saw Mrs. Wiggins, who was an employee of the Dixie Home, will you tell the jury which direction she was facing as you went into the store with reference to the position and place where you fell? A. She had her back to me, as I came in and facing down the aisle.

"Q. Which aisle? A. The aisle I fell in.

"Q. When you passed there, was she still facing that direction? A. She was.

"Q. Tell the jury how far it was beyond where she was standing looking in the direction you were walking, that you fell? A. Ten or twelve feet.

"Q. As you passed her while she was looking in the direction you described, did she warn you of any debris or beans that were scattered on the floor by the bin? A. No."

The respondent also testified that as she was walking down the aisle she saw another employee of the appellant working about 25 to 30 feet from where she fell.

We quote again from the testimony of the respondent as to what caused her to fall:

"Q. As you walked on, will you describe to the jury what happened to you and what caused you to fall? A. I stepped on some green beans, and this foot went backwards, ...


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