If a stretch of roadway is locally known as “Deadman’s Curve,” motorists should probably consider alternate routes.
This latest incident was “horrific,” according to West Chester Volunteer Fire Department Chief Andy Martin. Apparently, a fully-loaded logging truck, driven by 62-year-old Clyde Davis, of Clover, collided head-on with a passenger van, operated by 51-year-old Jacky Blalock, Jr., of Lancaster. By the time first responders arrived, burning debris was scattered all over the highway. Because of the intense flames, emergency crews used a Bobcat to clear the road. Moreover, it took workers about three hours to cut through the wreckage and reach one of the deceased victims. In fact, the force of the collision stripped two of the axles off the logging truck, which was found overturned in a nearby ditch. Both Mr. Davis and Ms. Blalock were pronounced dead at the scene.
Locals refer to the sweeping curve near Turn Buckle Road as “Deadman’s Curve,” because logging trucks coming from forests in the western part of South Carolina are bound for sawmills in nearby Chester have trouble negotiating the curve and maintaining visibility at 55 mph, which is the posted speed limit. Four years ago, a 90-year-old man was killed in a collision with an oncoming logging truck.
The Origins of Duty
One of the earliest cases on the subject is Donoghue v. Stevenson (1932). This English case involved a woman who found a dead and partially decomposed snail in the bottom of a bottle of ginger beer. She sued the beer bottler for failing “to provide a system of working his business which would not allow snails to get into his ginger-beer bottles.” For his part, the bottler claimed that the plaintiff’s “averments were irrelevant and insufficient.”
Today, the facts seem to present a clear-cut case of negligence. But seventy-five years ago, there was basically no law on the subject. So, Lord Atkin enunciated what became known as the “neighbour principle:”
The rule that you are to love your neighbour becomes in law, you must not injure your neighbour; and the lawyer’s question, Who is my neighbour? receives a restricted reply. You must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbour.
The neighbour principle eventually made its way to America and became the duty of reasonable care in negligence law.
Although duty has a fixed definition, it does not have a fixed meaning, because the duty of reasonable care manifests itself in different ways under different circumstances.
Vehicle speed is an excellent example, because quite often, the posted speed limit is too fast for the environmental conditions. Visibility may be poor because of terrain or darkness, the road may be slick because of adverse weather, or traffic conditions might make it advisable to slow down.
Partner with an Experienced Attorney
The duty of reasonable care applies differently to different defendants in different circumstances. For a free consultation with an assertive personal injury attorney in Charleston, contact David Aylor Law Offices. Home and hospital visits are available.