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State v. Sealy - 253 N.C. 802, 117 S.E.2d 793 (1961)

Rule:

According to the provisions of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-158, a violation thereof is not negligence per se in any action at law for injury to person or property, but the failure to stop at a stop sign before entering an intersection with a dominant highway may be considered with other facts in the case in determining whether or not under all the facts and circumstances involved, such driver was guilty of negligence or contributory negligence. Culpable negligence in the law of crimes necessarily implies something more than actionable negligence in the law of torts. An intentional, wilful or wanton violation of a statute or ordinance, designed for the protection of human life or limb which proximately results in injury or death, is culpable negligence. But, where there is an unintentional or inadvertent violation of the statute, such violation standing alone does not constitute culpable negligence. The inadvertent or unintentional violation of the statute must be accompanied by recklessness of probable consequences of a dangerous nature, when tested by the rule of reasonable prevision, amounting altogether to a thoughtless disregard of consequences or of a heedless indifference to the safety of others.

Facts:

Bullock and Rhodes were killed in an automobile collision. The automobile in which they were riding was being operated in a westerly direction on a highway known as the Bethesda Church Road when they were struck by an automobile being operated by defendant Howard Sealy in a southerly direction along a servient highway, at the intersection of the two roads. Stop signs had been erected at the intersection of the servient highway directing traffic to stop before entering the Bethesda Church Road. Defendant offered evidence tending to show that he stopped before entering the intersection and that he did not see the lights of the approaching car. On the trial for involuntary manslaughter against defendant, the judge gave instructions to the jury regarding the appreciation of the element of intent. The jury returned a verdict of guilty of involuntary manslaughter as to both bills and the defendant was sentenced to from three to five years in each case, the sentences to run concurrently. On appeal, defendant assigned error on the instructions to the jury on the ground that they were conflicting.

Issue:

Were the instructions to the jury conflicting, requiring a new trial for the case?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The Court held that the instructions were conflicting and that the new trial shall be conducted. According to the provisions of G.S. 20-158, a violation thereof was not negligence per se in any action at law for injury to person or property, but the failure to stop at a stop sign before entering an intersection with a dominant highway may be considered with other facts in the case in determining whether or not under all the facts and circumstances involved, such driver was guilty of negligence or contributory negligence. Culpable negligence in the law of crimes necessarily implies something more than actionable negligence in the law of torts. An intentional, willful or wanton violation of a statute or ordinance, designed for the protection of human life or limb which proximately results in injury or death, was culpable negligence. But, where there was an unintentional or inadvertent violation of the statute, such violation standing alone did not constitute culpable negligence. The inadvertent or unintentional violation of the statute must be accompanied by recklessness of probable consequences of a dangerous nature, when tested by the rule of reasonable prevision, amounting altogether to a thoughtless disregard of consequences or of a heedless indifference to the safety of others.

The Court reversed the judgment of the trial court and ordered a new trial for the case.

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