Warren v. Jeffries
263 N.C. 531, 139 S.E.2d 718 (1965)

  • Terry was killed when he was run over by Jeffries’ car. Warren sued for wrongful death.
    • Terry’s mother (Warren) and a bunch of kids were in Jeffries’ borrowed car getting ready to go to the store. Warren got out of the car to get something from the house. The car began rolling down a hill. The kids all jumped out of the car, in Terry’s case unsuccessfully.
  • The Trial Court dismissed the case on a judgment of involuntary nonsuit. Warren appealed.
    • An involuntary nonsuit means that the plaintiff doesn’t show up for trial, or (as in this case) when don’t have any evidence at all that could support their case.
    • Warren argued that Jeffries failed to adequately maintain the handbrake. However, there was no evidence that the brake hadn’t been maintained properly.
    • Warren argued that since the car was rolling, the brake must not have been working. Therefore, based on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur there didn’t need to be any evidence that the brake wasn’t working, it could just be assumed.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.
    • Since the actual reason the car started rolling was undetermined, and Jeffries was not in control of the car at the time (maybe Warren forgot to set the brake before she got out of the car), Warren couldn’t use the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur to automatically assign negligence to Jeffries.