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Caldwell v. Tremper

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Department

January 16, 1962

Donald Meredith CALDWELL, Appellant,
Hama Josephine TREMPER, Administratrix of the Estate of Tonini E. Tremper, Deceased, for and on behalf of herself as the surviving widow, and for and on behalf of Don A. Tremper, Jane Louise Tremper, and Thomas Joseph Tremper, surviving children of deceased, Appellee.

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[90 Ariz. 243] Westover, Mansfield, Westover & Copple, Yuma, for appellant.

Byrne & Green, Yuma, for appellee.


Defendant appeals from an order of the trial court granting plaintiff a new trial.

Hama Josephine Tremper, Administratrix of the Estate of Tonini E. Tremper, deceased, for and on behalf of herself, as surviving widow, and the three surviving minor children of the deceased, brought this action against Donald Meredith Caldwell for the alleged wrongful death of Tonini E. Tremper.

On March 14, 1957, at about the hour of 9:30 A.M., the decedent Tonini Tremper was the driver and only occupant of a 1957 Ford automobile and was driving in an easterly direction on U. S. Highway 80 in Yuma County, Arizona, at a point immediately east of Wellton, Arizona. At the same time and place the defendant Donald Caldwell was the driver of a 1953 Ford panel truck and was moving in a westerly direction upon the highway towing behind the panel truck a home-made luggage trailer heavily loaded with household appliances, fixtures and furnishings. At the time and place mentioned, the trailer started to fishtail and broke loose from the panel truck and crossed the centerline of the highway into the eastbound lane of traffic then being used by the deceased thereby [90 Ariz. 244] causing a collision between the trailer and Mr. Tremper's car. Mr. Tremper was killed instantly.

Investigation after the collision showed that the draw bar on the trailer, which consisted of a metal water pipe, had broken, causing the trailer to break loose from the truck and collide with the automobile of the deceased. The trailer was a single axle two-wheel light weight capacity design and is what is known as a luggage trailer. At the time the defendant purchased the trailer in 1956 it had side boards approximately twelve inches high. When the defendant decided to move his household appliances and furnishings from the State of Iowa to California he added side boards to approximately four feet in height. Testimony reveals that the trailer had an estimated load capacity of approximately 750 pounds. At the time of the collision the luggage trailer was loaded with a refrigerator, a bedroom set with twin beds, springs and mattresses, a dresser with a

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mirror, a cabinet model sewing machine, a child's tricycle, dishes, items of clothing, papers and other household items, making a total estimated weight of from 1500 to 2500 pounds.

At the time defendant purchased the trailer at Sioux City, Iowa, in 1956 he noted that when it was attached to his panel truck and a corner turn was made the front bed of the trailer would strike the rear of the panel truck. The defendant engaged a garage mechanic in Sioux City to extend the tongue of the trailer by fitting and welding a larger pipe over the trailer tongue. The result was a shifting of the plane of stress approximately an eighth of an inch to the rear. After this mechanical work had been performed the trailer towed satisfactorily in back of the panel truck until the accident. At the time of the collision defendant was driving his truck at the rate of approximately fifty miles per hour.

Defendant presents two assignments of error and requests that the trial court's order granting plaintiff a new trial be set aside.

The first assignment of error requests reversal on the ground (a) that the trial court did not comply with Rules of Civil Procedure, rule 59(m), 16 A.R.S. by specifying with particularity the grounds upon which the motion for a new trial was granted, (b) the court did not prejudice plaintiff by giving or failing to give instructions to the jury, (c) the court did not erroneously instruct the jury to the prejudice of the plaintiff, (d) the verdict was not contrary to law and was not contrary to the evidence, (e) there was insufficient evidence to take the case to the jury and the trial court should have instructed a verdict for defendant.

The second assignment of error alleges an abuse of discretion by the trial court in granting plaintiff's motion for new trial.

[90 Ariz. 245] Assignment 1(a) involves Rule 59(m) of the Rules of Civil Procedure which provides as follows:

'No order granting a new trial shall be made and entered unless the order specifies with particularity the ground or grounds on ...

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