April 13, 2015
From Beaufort County J. Ernest Kinard, Jr., Circuit Court
Bernard McIntyre, of Beaufort, for Appellant.
Elizabeth Hall Freeman, of Hall Booth Smith, PC, and Jeffrey
Alan Ross, of Jeff Ross Law, LLC, both of Charleston, for
action arising from an automobile accident, Jonetha Singleton
appeals, arguing the circuit court erred in directing a
verdict that she was negligent as a matter of law under
section 56-5-2770(A) of the South Carolina Code (2006) in
turning left behind another vehicle stopped behind a stopped
school bus. We reverse.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
October 6, 2010, Singleton was involved in an automobile
accident in Beaufort County. Singleton was making a left turn
into her mother's driveway when Starshaka Cuthbert's
vehicle, approaching from the oncoming direction, continued
past a stopped school bus and struck her. Just before
Singleton made her left turn, she was stopped one car behind
the stopped bus. Although the school bus's caution lights
were activated, Cuthbert did not stop for the school bus and
hit Singleton's car on the right side.
filed a complaint on November 10, 2011, seeking compensatory
and punitive damages. Cuthbert answered, asserting
comparative negligence as a defense. During the trial on May
6, 2013, Cuthbert moved for directed verdict, asserting
Singleton violated section 56-5-2770(A) by turning left
behind the vehicle stopped behind the school bus. Cuthbert
contended Singleton was negligent as a matter of law because
Singleton's own testimony established the school
bus's flashing red lights were activated, the bus was
stopped, she came to a stop, and then she proceeded to make
her left turn while the bus was still stopped. Singleton
countered that no evidence established she was "meeting
or overtaking" the bus as referenced in section
circuit court granted Cuthbert's motion for directed
verdict, determining Singleton was negligent in violating
section 56-5-2770(A) because she made the left turn without
waiting for the school bus to deactivate its warning lights
or resume moving. The issues of Cuthbert's negligence,
the comparative negligence of each party, and causation were
submitted to the jury.
jury returned a verdict for Cuthbert. Singleton moved for
judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) and a new trial.
The circuit court denied both motions.
circuit court err in directing a verdict that Singleton was
negligent as a matter of law under section 56-5-2770(A) of
the South Carolina Code by turning left behind a vehicle
stopped behind a stopped school bus?
ruling on a motion for a directed verdict . . ., the trial
court must view the evidence and the inferences that
reasonably can be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable
to the party opposing the motions." McNaughton v.
Charleston Charter Sch. for Math & Sci., Inc., 411 S.C.
249, 259, 768 S.E.2d 389, 395 (2015). The circuit court must
deny the motion "when the evidence yields more than one
inference or its inference is in doubt." Id.
"This Court will ...