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Vinyard v. Vinyard Funeral Home, Inc


    Citation. Vinyard v. Vinyard Funeral Home, Inc., 435 S.W.2d 392, 1968 Mo. App. LEXIS 588 (Mo. Ct. App. 1968)

    Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiff fell in the parking lot of the defendant, Vinyard Funeral Home, Inc’s (the “defendant”) funeral home. Plaintiff’s fall occurred when the paved surface on which she was walking changed from a rough, unfinished one, to a slick, sealed surface that was slippery when, as it was that evening, wet.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. When evidence is admitted because of the relevance of the fact that the statement was made, that evidence is not hearsay and may be considered substantively.

    Facts. Plaintiff was an invitee who slipped and fell in the parking lot of the defendant. The plaintiff had been in the parking lot before, but had never parked in the upper area where the accident took place that occasioned her law suit in this case. The upper area of the parking lot, unlike the bottom section, had been sealed and was thus quite slick and became even more slippery when it was wet, as it was that evening due to rain. The area was also dimly lit and the color of the pavement changed only slightly from the area which was not sealed to that area which was. Plaintiff prevailed at trial and obtained a judgment in the amount of $13,000. Defendant appealed.

    Issue. Whether evidence of the condition of the parking lot was sufficient to show both that it was (1) unreasonably dangerous to visitors, and (2) not discoverable by visitors?
    Whether statements made by witnesses at trial regarding complaints they had received from others about the parking lot’s slickness were hearsay, and thus improperly admitted?

    Whether evidence of other accidents in different areas of the parking lot was improperly admitted?

    Held. The evidence of fourteen percent grade and a smooth, wet surface were enough for a jury to find unreasonable danger. The change in surface from rough to smooth and the dim lighting were enough for a jury to find that the condition was difficult to detect.
    No. The statements were admitted to show knowledge by the defendant that the surface was slippery when wet, not to show that the surface was in fact slick when wet.

    No. Evidence of other accidents may be admitted when the court holds that its probative value outweighs any danger of unfair surprise or confusion of the issues, and adequate opportunity for cross examination of the witness is afforded.


    Discussion. The court properly admitted testimony of what others had said regarding the condition of the parking lot because such testimony was not admitted to prove the truth of the matter asserted, namely that the parking lot was slick when wet. Instead, the testimony was offered for the fact that the statements were made, which showed that defendant had knowledge of the condition of the parking lot, a fact that needed to be proved in order to show liability on the part of the defendant. Therefore, the statement was not hearsay, but rather evidence that could be considered substantively in terms of the defendant’s state of mind.


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