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South Carolina
Judicial Department
2005-UP-039 - Keels v. Poston


In The Court of Appeals

Ida Mae Keels, Respondent,


William Poston, Appellant.

Appeal From Williamsburg County
Clifton Newman, Circuit Court Judge

Unpublished Opinion No. 2005-UP-039
Submitted October 1, 2004 – Filed January 14, 2005


David Craig Brown, of Florence, and Robert J. Thomas, of Columbia, for Appellant. 

Charles D. Barr, of Kingstree, for Respondent.

PER CURIAM:  William Poston appeals the trial court’s denial of his motions for directed verdict, judgment notwithstanding the verdict, and new trial.  Poston also challenges the admission of certain evidence and testimony.  We affirm. [1]


In her complaint, Ida Mae Keels alleged Poston was negligent by failing to yield the right of way and failing to keep a proper lookout after the parties were involved in a minor traffic accident at an intersection in downtown Kingstree, South Carolina.  Keels claimed she suffered permanent injury to her neck and shoulder and requested damages of $50,000.  Poston denied Keels’ allegations and pled a comparative negligence defense. 

Keels was traveling eastbound across Mills Street and Poston was driving north on Hampton when Poston struck the right rear bumper of Keels’ car as she crossed the intersection.  The police officer responding to the accident testified both vehicles were traveling at a speed of between ten and twenty-five miles per hour, and damage to Keels’ car was minimal.  The officer testified there was a stop sign posted on Mills Street leading into the intersection, but not on Hampton Street. 

Keels testified she obeyed the stop sign, looked both ways, and then pulled up beyond the stop sign to make sure the intersection was clear before proceeding.  Poston testified he was driving slowly on Hampton Street, and when he neared the intersection he suddenly saw a car coming across in front of him from the left.  He stated he tried to stop, but could not avoid hitting Keels’ car. 

Poston made timely motions for directed verdict, arguing Keels had failed to present any evidence of his negligence.  Although the trial court acknowledged the evidence supporting Poston’s negligence was thin and expressed concern there was no testimony about how Poston was driving, Poston’s motions were denied and the court permitted the case to go to the jury on the question of comparative negligence.          

The jury found Poston 100% liable for the accident and awarded Keels $35,000 in damages.  The trial court denied Poston’s motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and a new trial. 


I.  Motions for Directed Verdict, JNOV, and New Trial

Poston contends the trial court erred by denying his motions for directed verdict and JNOV, arguing Keels failed to present any evidence to support a finding he was negligent.  We disagree.

When ruling on directed verdict or JNOV motions, the trial court must view the evidence and the inferences that may reasonably be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.  Sabb v. South Carolina State Univ., 350 S.C. 416, 427, 567, S.E.2d 231, 236 (2002).  If the evidence as a whole is susceptible to more than one reasonable inference, a jury issue is created and the motion should be denied.  Bailey v. Segars, 346 S.C. 359, 365-66, 550 S.E.2d 910, 913 (Ct. App. 2001).  This court will not reverse the denial of a motion for directed verdict unless there is no evidence to support the trial court’s ruling.  South Carolina Prop. & Cas. Guar. Ass’n v. Yensen, 345 S.C. 512, 521, 548 S.E.2d 880, 885 (Ct. App. 2001).

Poston testified he did not see Keels’ car until immediately before he struck her vehicle.  The jury could have reasonably inferred from his testimony and from the location of the damage to Keels’ car that Poston failed to keep a proper lookout before motoring through the intersection and, as a result of his negligence, proximately caused the accident.  See Cope v. Eckert, 284 S.C. 516, 519, 327 S.E.2d 367, 369 (Ct. App. 1985) (stating South Carolina recognizes a duty of care in keeping a proper lookout for travelers on favored and unfavored roads); see also Brown v. Howell, 284 S.C. 605, 609, 327 S.E.2d 659, 661 (Ct. App. 1985) (affirming the trial court’s denial of plaintiff’s motion for directed verdict finding “the jury could also reasonably infer from the evidence that [the plaintiff] did not exercise due care for his own safety in that he failed to keep a proper lookout”).

Additionally, Keels testified she stopped at the stop sign on Mills Street, looked both ways, and then pulled up a little farther to make sure the intersection was clear before she proceeded.  The jury could have reasonably inferred from her testimony that Keels indeed stopped and, after determining Poston’s oncoming vehicle did not constitute an immediate hazard, proceeded lawfully through the intersection.  See S.C. Code Ann. § 56-5-2330 (2003) (requiring that a “driver shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching on another roadway so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time when such driver is moving across or with the intersection”).  Because a verdict for Keels would be reasonably possible under the facts presented at trial as liberally construed in her favor, Poston’s motions for directed verdict and JNOV were properly denied. 

Poston also argues the trial court erred by declining to grant his motion for a new trial arguing Keels was negligent as a matter of law.  We disagree.

Negligence as a matter of law cannot be established in this case unless the only inference that can be drawn from the evidence is that Keels either “did not look or did so in such a careless fashion as not to see what was in plain view.”  Crosby v. Sawyer, 291 S.C. 474, 476, 354 S.E.2d 387, 388 (1987). 

Because the jury could have determined from her testimony that Keels carefully looked both ways before crossing the intersection, Poston cannot establish she was negligent as a matter of law.  Accordingly, Poston’s motion for a new trial was properly denied.

Finally, Poston claims the trial court erred by denying his motion for a new trial, arguing the amount of the verdict was so excessive as to indicate that it was the result of passion, prejudice, caprice or conjecture.  We disagree. 

When we review a jury’s award of damages, this court has a duty only to determine whether any evidence exists to support the verdict.  Hutson v. Cummins Carolinas, Inc., 280 S.C. 552, 559, 314 S.E.2d 19, 24 (Ct. App. 1984). 

Keels testified she suffered painful injuries to her neck and shoulder that resulted in her inability to function as she had prior to the accident.  She also testified about medical expenses she had incurred as a result of the accident.  Her testimony meets the “any evidence” standard to support the jury’s verdict.  We therefore are without grounds to grant a new trial.

II.  Admission of Summary of Medical Bills

Poston contends the trial court erred in admitting a summary of Keels’ medical bills into evidence without requiring her to produce the actual billing statements or evidence the medical charges she incurred were related to injuries claimed as a result of the accident.  We disagree.

The decision whether to admit or exclude evidence is a matter within the sound discretion of the trial court and it will not be disturbed on appeal absent a showing the court abused that discretion.  Gamble v. Int’l Paper Realty Corp. of South Carolina, 323 S.C. 367, 373, 474 S.E.2d 438, 441 (1996).  Moreover, whether a plaintiff’s medical bills are sufficiently related to the injuries sustained in the accident from which the litigation arose is a question of fact for the jury to determine, and only goes to the weight, not the admissibility of the evidence.  Pilgrim v. Miller, 350 S.C. 637, 643, 567 S.E.2d 527, 530 (Ct. App. 2002).

Although Keels did not submit her actual medical bills into evidence, she provided a summary of her medical expenses and testified to its accuracy and to the relationship of the expenses contained within it to the injuries she sustained as a result of the auto accident.  We therefore conclude the trial court did not abuse his discretion in admitting a summary of Keels’ medical expenses into evidence.

III.  Hearsay Testimony

Poston claims the trial court erred in allowing Keels’ counsel to ask her a leading question during redirect containing a hearsay assertion.  We disagree. 

On cross-examination Poston’s counsel asked Keels, “To your knowledge did Dr. Trefny, your family doctor, attribute these injuries, your neck and your left shoulder, to this accident?”  Keels responded, “[w]ell he treated me for it.”  On redirect examination, Keels’ attorney asked her, “Did Dr. Trefny indicate whether or not he thought that the injury to your neck and shoulder came from the accident?”  Keels attempted to respond:  “He told me had to come from that because . . .”  Poston’s counsel interrupted Keels’ reply, objecting solely on the grounds her answer constituted inadmissible hearsay.  The trial court overruled the objection, determining Keels’ answer was “responsive to questions posed during cross-examination.”  We agree. 

On appeal, Keels claims error not only on the grounds of hearsay, but also that the question was leading.  No objection was interposed on the basis the question was leading.  Therefore, that issue is not preserved for our review.  State v. Bailey, 298 S.C. 1, 5, 377 S.E.2d 581, 584 (1989) (Appellant may not object to evidence on one ground at trial and then argue an alternate ground on appeal.). 

The question posed on redirect and Keels’ response was invited by opposing counsel’s questioning during cross-examination.  Because Poston’s counsel initiated inquiry into this subject, Poston is now in no position to complain about a continuation of the same line of questioning.  Kirkland v. Peoples Gas Co., 269 S.C. 431, 437, 237 S.E.2d 772, 774-75 (1977) (holding a party may not complain on appeal of an error invited by the party’s own conduct); Squires v. Henderson, 208 S.C. 58, 63-64, 36 S.E.2d 738, 740-41 (1946) (stating when an appellant initiates a line of questioning, the appellant cannot later complain as to that same line of questioning).



[1]         We decide this case without oral argument pursuant to Rule 215, SCACR.