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Roberts v. Pilot Freight Carriers, Inc. - 273 N.C. 600, 160 S.E.2d 712 (1968)

Rule:

In general, the right to recover for loss of use is limited to situations in which the damage to the vehicle is repaired at a reasonable cost and within a reasonable time. If the vehicle is totally destroyed as an instrument of conveyance or if, because parts are unavailable or for some other special reason, repairs are so long delayed as to be improvident, the plaintiff purchases another vehicle. In this situation, he is entitled to damages for loss of use only if another vehicle is not immediately obtainable and, in consequence, he suffers loss of earnings during the interval between the accident and the acquisition of another vehicle. The interval is limited to the period reasonably necessary to acquire the new vehicle.

Facts:

After a collision between plaintiff dump truck driver and defendant tractor-trailer driver, plaintiff filed a successful action for damages to his truck and business.  Defendant tractor-trailer driver appealed a judgment for plaintiff dump truck driver in an action brought in the Civil Session of Wake (North Carolina), claiming that the trial court erred by charging the jury that the measure of damages was plaintiff's lost profits and by permitting plaintiff to testify about his lost profits and reduction in the amount of his business caused by the collision.

Issue:

Did the trial court erroneously charge the jury on the measure of damages and erroneously permitted plaintiff to testify as to his lost profits before requiring him to lay the proper foundation?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The court ruled that defendant's motion for nonsuit was properly denied because there was sufficient evidence that established defendant's actionable negligence, but it sustained the assignments of error. The trial court's charge did not meet the requirements of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1-180. There was evidence on which the jury might have found that repairs could have been economically made to plaintiff's truck, and he would have been entitled to recover the reasonable cost of hiring a substitute vehicle for the repair period. The trial court erroneously permitted him to seek recovery for lost profits without showing that a substitute vehicle was unavailable. He failed to mitigate his damages because he made no effort to purchase another truck or parts to repair it. He thus laid no foundation to recover either lost profits or the cost of a substitute vehicle.

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