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Malik v. Tommy's Auto Serv. - 199 Md. App. 610, 24 A.3d 114 (2011)

Rule:

When a party moves for judgment at the close of evidence, if there be any evidence, however slight, legally sufficient as tending to prove negligence, the weight and value of such evidence will be left to the jury. "Legally sufficient" means that a party who has the burden of proving another party guilty of negligence, cannot sustain this burden by offering a mere scintilla of evidence, amounting to no more than surmise, possibility, or conjecture that such other party has been guilty of negligence, but such evidence must be of legal probative force and evidential value. In this analysis, meager evidence of negligence is sufficient to carry the case to the jury.

Facts:

A tow truck owned by appellee Tommy’s Auto Service, Inc. (“TAS”) and operated by a TAS employee, appellee Charles Payne, struck the vehicle of appellant Sajid A. Malik. Malik brought a negligence action in the Circuit Court for the injuries he sustained as a result of the collision. In their testimony, Malik and Payne gave differing accounts of the accident; photos of the damage to the vehicles tended to support Payne’s version. Malik moved for judgment at the close of evidence under the "Boulevard Rule," which provided that a driver who entered a road ("unfavored driver") had to yield to an approaching vehicle ("favored driver"), unless the favored driver was proceeding unlawfully or was contributorily negligent. The Prince George's County Circuit Court (Maryland) denied the motion. The jury found Malik to have been negligent and to have been contributorily negligent; accordingly, judgment was entered in favor of appellees TAS and Payne. Malik sought review of the judgment.

Issue:

Where plaintiff driver Malik cited the "Boulevard Rule," did the trial court properly find there was enough evidence from which a jury could infer contributory negligence and thus deny plaintiff's motion for judgment?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

Affirming, the appellate court held that because Malik was aware of the truck's presence in the road, and as the jury could have inferred from the evidence that he darted in front of the truck immediately before the accident, the jury could have found that Malik was contributorily negligent. Thus, the trial court properly denied Malik's motion for judgment on the issue of liability and properly instructed the jury on contributory negligence. The trial court properly rejected Malik's proffered instruction on the Payne's negligence because it was adequately covered by its general negligence instruction.

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