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Sothern v. Vandyke

Decided: October 5, 1934.

HARRY SOTHERN, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
JAMES VANDYKE, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT



On appeal from the Supreme Court.

For the plaintiff-appellant, Platoff, Saperstein & Platoff.

For the defendant-respondent, Lindabury, Depue & Faulks.

Wells

The opinion of the court was delivered by

WELLS, J. This is an appeal by the plaintiff from a judgment entered in favor of the defendant, after a jury had rendered a general verdict of no cause of action in a trial in the Supreme Court, Essex county.

Plaintiff, a resident of New York, brought the action against the defendant, a resident of New Jersey, to recover for personal injuries received in an automobile accident which occurred August 13th, 1929, in the town of New Canaan, Connecticut.

The plaintiff's cause of action was based upon section 1628 of chapter 308, session laws of Connecticut, 1927, general statutes of Connecticut, revision of 1930, known as the "Guest act," section 1 of which provides as follows:

"No person transported by the owner or operator of a motor vehicle as his guest without payment for such transportation shall have a cause of action for damages against such owner or operator for injury, death or loss, in case of accident, unless such accident shall have been intentional on the part of such owner or operator or caused by his heedlessness or his reckless disregard of the rights of others."

From the evidence offered upon the trial, the jury might have reached the following conclusions:

The plaintiff was a stage director, who, on the evening of the accident, was directing a company of players at a local theater in Stamford, Connecticut.

After the evening's performance was over, the plaintiff and a Miss Nelson, an actress, were riding at the invitation

of the defendant, in an automobile owned and operated by him along the Smith Ridge road, New Canaan, Connecticut. The three were sitting together on the front seat, the plaintiff on the outside to the right, and the car was proceeding along the highway in a northerly direction at about thirty-five to forty miles an hour and came to a very sharp left-hand turn in the highway. The defendant, who failed to see this curve until within a few feet of it, in attempting to make the turn, drove off the road to the right and his automobile came in contact with a tree, a short distance off the road, injuring the plaintiff.

The three had dined together and before and during the dinner they imbibed some cocktails and highballs.

After the accident the defendant was arrested on a warrant, based upon a complaint made by the prosecuting attorney of the town of New Canaan, and he was brought before the town court of New Canaan to answer a charge "that on the 13th day of August, A.D. 1929, at and within the town of New Canaan, the defendant, with force and arms, did operate a motor vehicle upon a public highway of this state, to wit, Smith Ridge, in said town of New Canaan, recklessly, having due regard to the width of said street, the intersection of streets and the traffic and weather conditions existing at the time and place above mentioned, against the peace and contrary to the statute in such case made and provided."

The plaintiff offered in evidence a certified copy of this complaint, upon the back of which appeared these words -- "Complaint for Reckless Driving," and just below this were printed the words "Plea -- guilty to -- Counts." The words "guilty to" were encircled in black ink, and ...


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