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The reason for the well-settled principle of review is based not only upon the trial court's better capacity to evaluate live witnesses as compared with an appellate court's access only to a cold record, but also upon the proper allocation of trial and appellate functions between the respective courts. Thus, where two permissible views of the evidence exist, the factfinder's choice between them cannot be manifestly erroneous or clearly wrong.
Plaintiffs, injured party and spouse, brought suit against defendant department of transportation claiming that a defect in the road caused plaintiff injured party to lose control of her vehicle. The trial judge apportioned fault 50 percent to defendant and 50 percent to plaintiff. Defendant sought review and the appellate court reversed the trial court's judgment. According to the appellate court, the sole reason for the accident was the plaintiff’s failure to maintain control of the vehicle. The appellate court also found that the plaintiff had failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the department of transportation had actual or constructive notice of a defect in the roadway. Certiorari was granted.
Did the appellate court properly apply the correct review standard when it found that the trial court was wrong in its conclusion that the roadway contained a defect and that defendant had actual or constructive notice of the defect?
The court held that the appellate court misapplied the manifest error-clearly wrong standard. Accordingly, the court reversed the appellate court's decision and reinstated the judgment of the trial court. The trial judge was presented with two permissible views of the evidence and its findings were not manifestly erroneous or clearly wrong. The appellate court erred when it concluded that plaintiff failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that defendant had actual or constructive notice of the defect.