Lewellyn v. Shott

In Lewellyn v. Shott, 109 W.Va. 379, 155 S.E.115 (1930), the plaintiff, Della Lewellyn, was a guest passenger in a vehicle owned by Edward Shott and operated by his wife. Lewellyn claimed personal injuries resulting from an accident. She alleged that both defendants knew the steering gear in the car "was out of repair, and that it was negligence on their part to permit the car to be used while in that condition, and, more particularly, if Mrs. Shott saw fit to use the car in that condition, it was her duty to warn Mrs. Lewellyn of the danger." Id., 109 W.Va. at 380, 155 S.E. at 115. The evidence showed that Shott noticed a looseness in the steering gear the day before the accident and took the vehicle to a garage for an inspection. The mechanic asked her to bring the car back the next day, but explained that he did not think the automobile was dangerous. The following morning, with Lewellyn present, Shott took the car to a service station to buy gasoline and oil. She asked the attendant to examine the steering gear. After being reassured that the automobile was safe, Shott and Lewellyn continued their journey and subsequently had an accident. Following a trial, the jury returned a verdict of $ 1 for Lewellyn. The trial court set aside the verdict and awarded a new trial. On appeal, this Court acknowledged that Lewellyn was present when the car was inspected at the service station and that she heard and saw, or should have seen and heard, what took place. The Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court and held in Syllabus Point 1 that "a guest in a private automobile is obliged to exercise such care as an ordinarily prudent person, riding with another, would exercise for his own safety under the same or similar circumstances." The Court went on to hold in Syllabus Point 2 that "the owner or operator of a private automobile is not a guarantor of the safety of his guest. The exercise of reasonable care by the host is the requirement of the law." The duty placed on the owner of an automobile was explained in Syllabus Point 3, in part, as follows: "A gratuitous passenger in a private automobile accepts the automobile as he finds it, subject to the duty of his host to warn him of any known dangerous defect."