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Department of Transp. v. Anglin

Supreme Court of Florida

February 5, 1987

Nos. 67,599, 67,600

Opinion

 [*897]  We have for our review Anglin v. Department of Transportation, 472 So.2d 784 (Fla. 1st DCA 1985), wherein the district court relied on our decision in Gibson v. Avis Rent-a-Car System, Inc., 386 So.2d 520 (Fla. 1980), which involved a materially different factual situation in arriving at its conclusion. We have jurisdiction, article V, section 3(b)(3), Florida Constitution, and quash the decision below.

Cleopatra Anglin, her husband and his brother were driving their 1965 model pickup truck [**2]  on alternate U.S. 27 in rural Polk County on the evening of September 3, 1979. It had been raining throughout the day as a result of Hurricane David. At approximately 8:30 p.m. it was still drizzling when the Anglins crossed a Seaboard Coast Line Railroad track and drove through a six-inch deep puddle of water which covered both lanes of the highway. The water evidently doused the truck's engine, causing it to sputter for some distance before it finally died. The Anglins pushed their vehicle off the side of the road and unsuccessfully attempted to restart it. The Anglin brothers then pushed their vehicle back on the roadway and attempted to start it by having Mrs. Anglin "pop the clutch" once the truck reached a certain speed. After pushing the vehicle approximately one hundred yards up a small incline, the roadway leveled off. It appears from the record that Mrs. Anglin was not adept at starting an engine by popping the clutch, so her husband stopped pushing, ran forward to the driver's seat and jumped in, while his brother continued pushing the vehicle; Mrs. Anglin exited the vehicle, joined her brother-in-law and started pushing. At this point, approximately fifteen minutes after [**3]  the Anglin's truck hit the puddle of water, a truck driven by Edward DuBose passed the Anglins heading in the opposite direction; someone in the DuBose vehicle yelled to the Anglins that they would be back to help. According to the testimony below DuBose traveled a short distance, slammed on his brakes, spun around before reaching the puddle of water, and headed back toward the Anglin's vehicle. With the engine roaring and at a speed approaching forty miles per hour, DuBose failed to stop and slammed into the back of the Anglin's truck. Mrs. Anglin was pinned between  [*898]  the two vehicles causing injuries which resulted in amputation of both her legs.

The Anglins filed a complaint against Seaboard and the Department of Transportation alleging negligence in the design of the railroad tracks and the roadway by allowing the accumulation of water on the roadway immediately adjacent to the tracks. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment which was granted by the trial court who reasoned that, as a matter of law, the actions of the Anglins in leaving their place of safety and placing their disabled vehicle back on the highway, plus the actions of DuBose in losing control [**4]  of his vehicle, were independent, efficient intervening causes of the accident which broke the chain of causation between the defendants' alleged negligence and the plaintiff's injury.

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502 So. 2d 896 *; 1987 Fla. LEXIS 1491 **; 12 Fla. L. Weekly 93

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, Petitioner, v. CLEOPATRA GAYLE ANGLIN, et al., Respondents; SEABOARD COAST LINE RAILROAD COMPANY, Petitioner, v. CLEOPATRA GAYLE ANGLIN, et al., Respondents

Prior History:  [**1]   Two Consolidated Applications for Review of the Decision of the District Court of Appeal - Direct Conflict of Decisions, First District - Case Nos. AT-276 & AT-277.

CORE TERMS

intervening cause, district court, foreseeable, injuries, set in motion, pushing, truck, chain of events, proximate cause, causation, highway, puddle

Torts, Elements, Causation, Intervening Causation, General Overview, Proximate Cause, Proof, Evidence, Province of Court & Jury