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Daub v. Daniels

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

September 30, 2013

PAULINE F. DAUB, Plaintiff,
v.
SAMUEL G. DANIELS, WILLIAM BAKER, and BESTFIELD HOMES, LLC., Defendants.

Submitted: June 10, 2013

I. Barry Guerke, Esq., Parkowski, Guerke & Swayze, Dover, Delaware. Attorney for Plaintiff.

Miranda D. Clifton, Esq., Law Office of Cynthia G. Beam, Newark, Delaware. Attorney for Defendant Daniels.

Mary E. Sherlock, Esq., Weber, Gallagher, Simpson, Stapleton, fires & Newby, LLP, Dover, Delaware. Attorney for Defendants Baker and Bestfield Homes.

OPINION

VAUGHN, President Judge

The plaintiff, Pauline Daub, moves for a new trial in this personal injury action involving a motor vehicle accident after a jury found that the defendants, Samuel Daniels, William Baker, and Baker's employer, Bestfield Homes, LLC, [1] were not negligent.

FACTS

The basic facts of this case were stated by this Court in its previous order denying Mr. Baker's motion for summary judgement:

On May 6, 2009 at around 6:30 a.m., Samuel Daniels was driving northbound in the left lane of Route 1 when the tailgate of his pickup truck fell off of his vehicle. Daniels testified that after he pulled his vehicle over to retrieve the tailgate from the road, he saw seven to nine vehicles swerve into the right lane to avoid hitting the tailgate. Baker, who was traveling several vehicles behind Daniels, testified that he was traveling one or two car lengths behind the vehicle in front of him. When that vehicle swerved into the right lane, Baker saw the tailgate lying on the road approximately 30 to 50 feet in front of him. Baker testified that he could not avoid hitting the tailgate, because there was traffic in the right hand lane, and he could not swerve onto the shoulder because he would have lost control of his vehicle. As a result, Baker ran over the tailgate, traveling between 60 and 65 miles per hour. The tailgate flew into the air and struck the plaintiff's windshield and then hit a truck operated by Brad Garthwaite, who were also traveling northbound on Route 1. Daniels and Garthwaite testified that traffic was "light" that morning, and Garthwaite testified that he did not see any other vehicles on the road at the time of the incident other than the four vehicles involved in the accident.[2]

After a trial, the jury ultimately determined that Mr. Baker was not negligent because the accident was the result of a sudden emergency caused by Daniels' fallen tailgate and that Mr. Daniels was not negligent in a manner proximately causing injury to the plaintiff.[3]

The plaintiff now moves for a new trial pursuant to Superior Court Civil Rule 59 as to all of the defendants.

DISCUSSION

Superior Court Civil Rule 59(a) states in pertinent part that "[a] new trial may be granted as to all or any of the parties, and on all or part of the issues in an action in which there has been a trial for any of the reasons for which new trials have heretofore been granted in the Superior Court."[4] In considering a motion for a new trial, there is a presumption that the jury verdict is correct.[5] The jury's verdict should be set aside only "when the verdict is manifestly and palpably against the weight of the evidence, or for some reason, justice would miscarry if the verdict were allowed to stand."[6] As the Delaware Supreme Court noted, "[t]his standard gives recognition to the exclusive province of the jury as established by the Delaware Constitution, ...


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