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Coleman v. Hines

North Carolina Court of Appeals
515 S.E.2d 57 (1999)


Facts

Judith Coleman, administrator of the estate of Kathy Ann Musso (plaintiff) filed a wrongful death action against William Wirt Hines (defendant) for knowingly driving a vehicle while intoxicated that resulted in a crash and the death of Musso. Early one afternoon Hines, who had been drinking, stopped by Musso’s place of employment to discuss an engagement party they planned to attend that night. Both parties agreed to drink alcohol on their way to, during, and after the party. Musso’s supervisor overheard the pair’s conversation and begged Musso not to ride with Hines. The supervisor repeatedly offered to pick up the pair at the party and to drive them home. Both Musso and Hines declined the supervisor’s offer. Later, Hines picked up Musso from work and they drove to a convenience store to purchase beer, which they drank throughout the evening. At the time of the crash, Hines’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was .184, more than twice the legal limit. Hines later pleaded guilty to manslaughter in causing Musso’s death. At the civil trial, the investigating police officers testified that Hines was clearly intoxicated while he was driving. Coleman argued there were material questions of fact regarding Musso’s knowledge of Hines being under the influence. However, the trial court found that the testimony provided by the investigating officers and Musso’s supervisor clearly showed that Musso assumed the risk of riding as a passenger in a car she knew was operated by an intoxicated person. Thereafter, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Hines on the issue of Musso’s contributory negligence. Coleman appealed.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Horton, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
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