Supreme Court Seal
South Carolina
JUDICIAL DEPARTMENT
Site Map | Feedback
2010-UP-418 - Hampton v. Pfohl

THIS OPINION HAS NO PRECEDENTIAL VALUE.  IT SHOULD NOT BE CITED OR RELIED ON AS PRECEDENT IN ANY PROCEEDING EXCEPT AS PROVIDED BY RULE 268(d)(2), SCACR.

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Court of Appeals

Beverly L. Hampton, Appellant,

v.

Lora B. Pfohl, Respondent.


Appeal from Spartanburg County
Roger L. Couch, Circuit Court Judge


Unpublished Opinion No. 2010-UP-418
Submitted June 8, 2010 – Filed September 20, 2010


AFFIRMED


Jon E. Newlon, of Greenwood, for Appellant.

James W. Hudgens, of Spartanburg, for Respondent.

PER CURIAM:  Beverly Hampton brought this negligence action against Lora Pfohl[1] after being involved in an automobile accident with Pfohl on September 14, 2004, in Greenville County, South Carolina.  At trial, immediately before the jury was charged, Hampton moved for a directed verdict on the issues of duty and negligence.[2]  The circuit court denied the motion.  The jury subsequently returned a verdict by checking "no" to the following question on the verdict form: "Do you find the defendant was negligent and that such negligence proximately caused the plaintiff's injuries?"  After the verdict was rendered, Hampton moved for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), a new trial absolute, and a new trial under the thirteenth juror doctrine.  All of Hampton's post-trial motions were denied.  This appeal followed.

On appeal, Hampton argues the circuit court erred in (1) denying her motions for a directed verdict and JNOV; (2) denying her motions for a new trial absolute and new trial under the thirteenth juror doctrine; and (3) charging comparative fault.  We affirm.

1.  As to Hampton's argument that the circuit court erred in denying her motions for a directed verdict and JNOV, we find no reversible error.[3]  Rather, we conclude the jury's verdict must be affirmed pursuant to the two-issue rule.  "Under the two-issue rule, when a jury returns a general verdict in a case involving two or more issues or defenses, and the verdict is supported as to at least one issue or defense that has been presented to the jury free from error, the verdict will not be reversed."  Cole v. Raut, 378 S.C. 398, 406-07, 663 S.E.2d 30, 34 (2008).  Here, the evidence supports a finding that Hampton suffered no injuries as a result of her accident with Pfohl and thus Pfohl's alleged negligence did not proximately cause any damages to Hampton.[4]  Therefore, because the jury's verdict is supported as to at least one issue,[5] it must be upheld.  See Dropkin v. Beachwalk Villas Condo. Ass'n, 373 S.C. 360, 365, 644 S.E.2d 808, 810 (Ct. App. 2007) ("Because there is evidence to support the verdict on the issue of proximate cause, and the jury returned a general verdict as to the issues of negligence and proximate cause, we must uphold the verdict.").

2.  With respect to Hampton's argument that the circuit court erred in denying her motions for a new trial absolute and new trial under the thirteenth juror doctrine, we find no error.  "The grant or denial of new trial motions rests within the discretion of the circuit court and its decision will not be disturbed on appeal unless its findings are wholly unsupported by the evidence or the conclusions reached are controlled by error of law."  RRR, Inc. v. Toggas, 378 S.C. 174, 182, 662 S.E.2d 438, 442 (Ct. App. 2008).  Here, as discussed above, we find the evidence supports the conclusion that Hampton did not suffer any damages as a result of her accident with Pfohl.  Accordingly, the circuit court did not err in denying Hampton's motions for a new trial absolute and new trial under the thirteenth juror doctrine.

3.  Finally, regarding Hampton's argument that the circuit court erred by charging comparative negligence, we find no preserved error.  "[A] party may not complain on appeal of error or object to a trial procedure which his own conduct has induced."  Erickson v. Jones St. Publishers, LLC, 368 S.C. 444, 476, 629 S.E.2d 653, 670 (2006).  Here, Hampton asked the circuit court to use a comparative negligence verdict form.  Therefore, Hampton cannot now argue the circuit court erred in instructing the jury on comparative negligence. 

For the foregoing reasons, the circuit court's decision is

AFFIRMED.[6]

KONDUROS, GEATHERS, and LOCKEMY, JJ., concur.


[1] According to Pfohl's brief, her first name is "Lora," not "Laura" as set forth in the pleadings.  We order that the case caption be amended accordingly.

[2] To state a cause of action for negligence, the plaintiff must allege facts that demonstrate the concurrence of three elements: (1) a duty of care owed by the defendant; (2) a breach of that duty by negligent act or omission; and (3) damage proximately caused by the breach.  Kleckley v. Nw. Nat'l Cas. Co., 338 S.C. 131, 138, 526 S.E.2d 218, 221 (2000).

[3] Because Hampton did not move for a directed verdict at the close of all the evidence but rather waited until after closing arguments were completed, we question whether this issue is preserved for review on appeal.  See Rule 50, SCRCP note 2 ("The motion for directed verdict may be made at the close of plaintiff's evidence, as well as at the close of all the evidence."); Freeman v. A. & M. Mobile Home Sales, Inc., 293 S.C. 255, 258-59, 359 S.E.2d 532, 535 (Ct. App. 1987) ("Before a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict can properly be made, . . . a party must move for a directed verdict at the close of all the evidence."); 88 C.J.S. Trial § 442 (2001) ("According to some authority, it is too late to move for a directed verdict after the beginning of argument, or after the close of the testimony and argument of both parties, when reopening is wholly within the discretion of the court." (footnotes omitted)).  Nonetheless, as discussed herein, even if this issue is preserved, we find the jury's verdict must be affirmed. 

[4] In her amended complaint, Hampton alleged she suffered "physical harm and injuries" and incurred medical expenses; she did not claim any damages relating to her vehicle. 

[5] The issue of whether Hampton suffered any damages as a result of Pfohl's alleged negligence was pertinent to the question of Pfohl's liability and thus was subsumed in the verdict form's query, "Do you find the defendant was negligent and that such negligence proximately caused the plaintiff's injuries?"  See Stevens v. Allen, 342 S.C. 47, 52, 536 S.E.2d 663, 665 (2000) (holding if the jury finds the plaintiff has failed to prove damages proximately caused by the defendant's negligence, then it should render a verdict finding the defendant not liable rather than award the plaintiff zero damages).  

[6] We decide this case without oral argument pursuant to Rule 215, SCACR, and the parties' agreement.