Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia; Hon. Emmet G. Sullivan, Trial Judge
Belson and Terry, Associate Judges, and Mack, Senior Judge.*
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Terry
A jury found General Electric Company (GE) liable for injuries which appellee, a taxicab driver, sustained in a collision between his taxicab and a truck operated by a GE employee. GE contends on appeal that the trial court erred when it (1) refused to allow the truck driver to testify about the Disposition of a traffic citation issued to him after the accident, (2) allowed appellee's medical expert to testify about the need for, and the cost of, future medical treatment, and (3) agreed to instruct the jury on unsafe speed, but not on passing on the right. Only the second claim of error has merit, and the error affects only the amount of damages. We therefore affirm the trial court's judgment on the issue of liability, reverse the judgment insofar as it awarded damages, and remand for a new trial on damages only.
On January 17, 1983, appellee's taxicab collided with a two-and-a-half-ton Ford truck *fn1 which was being driven by Maurice Alban, a GE employee who was acting within the scope of his employment. Both vehicles were proceeding eastbound on Q Street, N.W., a one-way street with cars parked in both curb lanes. Appellee was the first to arrive at the intersection of Q and Ninth Streets, where he stopped just short of the crosswalk to wait for a red traffic light to change to green. He testified that there were no cars in front of him when he stopped, but that there was a car parked at the curb just to the right of his taxicab. Although appellee intended to make a right turn onto Ninth Street, he did not turn while the light was red because a right turn on red was not permitted at that hour.
Maurice Alban testified that when he stopped at the intersection, there were two vehicles in front of him, a car and a pickup truck, waiting for the traffic light to turn green. Although appellee's cab was not one of those two vehicles, Alban did see the cab "up against the curb along the corner of Q and Ninth." Alban turned on his right turn signal to indicate his intent to turn right onto Ninth Street. When the traffic light changed to green, the two vehicles in front of Alban proceeded through the intersection, followed by Alban's truck. As Alban began to make his right turn, he glanced at the side-view mirror mounted on the right side of his truck to see if the way was clear. Seeing neither appellee's cab nor any other vehicle to his right, he continued through the turn at a speed of about five to ten miles per hour.
Mr. Alban said that he was looking in the side mirror and turning when "I hit him." Appellee testified that he did not see the GE truck before the collision, although he did feel the impact when the right rear tires of the truck hit his rear bumper and rolled over the left side of his taxicab. Appellee's head hit the roof, his knee struck the dashboard, and his chest made contact with the steering wheel. As the truck continued turning, it pushed the taxicab into the pedestrian crosswalk. *fn2 Mr. Alban stopped the truck on Ninth Street a short distance from the point of the collision. He immediately called the police, and Officer Douglas Monk responded.
At trial Officer Monk described eight feet of skid marks going from the point of impact, continuing over the crosswalk, and ending up on Ninth Street south of Q Street. He also saw tire marks on the driver's side of appellee's cab, extending from the rear fender to one of the doors. The evidence showed that the taxicab sustained damage to its left rear bumper and quarter panel. Appellee suffered injuries to his head, back, neck, shoulder, and knee as a result of the collision.
The jury returned a verdict for appellee and awarded him $100,000 in damages.
GE maintains that the trial court should have permitted it to present evidence about the Disposition of a traffic citation issued to its driver. We find no error in the court's refusal to grant such permission.
On direct examination, appellee was asked a series of questions by his counsel about what happened after the collision, e.g., did he feel any pain, did he move his cab before the police arrived, was GE's vehicle moved, and what, if anything, did Officer Monk ask him. After he answered these questions, the following exchange took place:
Q. Now, did there come a time when you left? You left the scene of Ninth ...