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Mathis v. Ammons

December 20, 1996

DEBORAH KAY MATHIS, APPELLANT,
v.
JAMES WALTER AMMONS AND EVA AMMONS, HUSBAND AND WIFE; AND JAMES STANLEY AMMONS AND KAY AMMONS, HUSBAND AND WIFE, RESPONDENTS.



Appeal from Superior Court of Cowlitz County. Docket No: 91-2-00395-6. Date filed: 03/14/95. Judge signing: Hon. Don L. McCulloch.

Motion for Reconsideration Denied January 21, 1997. Order Amending Opinion January 21, 1997, Rehearing Denied July 8, 1997,

Authored by. J. Dean Morgan. Concurring: Karen G. Seinfeld, Elaine M. Houghton.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morgan

MORGAN, J. -- In this auto accident case, Deborah Mathis, the plaintiff, seeks to overturn a jury determination that James Ammons, the defendant, was not negligent. We affirm.

At about 8:30 a.m. on August 1, 1990, Ammons was driving a farm tractor west on Growlers Gulch Road, a narrow two lane road in rural Cowlitz County. The road lacked a center line because it had recently been resurfaced.

Ammons was towing a hay rake that extended 18 inches to the left of the tractor's left rear tire. According to his later testimony, he was keeping the tractor and rake entirely within his lane of travel, and cars travelling in the opposite direction had room to pass. He was travelling at the tractor's maximum speed of about 14 miles per hour.

The morning was bright and sunny, and the tractor was passing in and out of shadows cast by roadside foliage. The tractor was not equipped with flashing amber hazard lights, even though it had been manufactured in 1979.

The tractor was equipped with headlights, but Ammons did not have them on.

Ammons' failure to display flashing amber hazard lights was a traffic infraction and a violation of statute. RCW 46.37.160(1) provides:

Every farm tractor and every self-propelled unit of farm equipment or implement of husbandry manufactured or assembled after January 1, 1970, shall be equipped with vehicular hazard warning lights of the type described in RCW 46.37.215 visible from a distance of not less than one thousand feet to the front and rear in normal sunlight, which shall be displayed whenever any such vehicle is operated upon a highway.

RCW 46.37.215(3) provides:

Vehicular hazard warning signal lamps used to display such warning to the front shall be mounted at the same level and as widely spaced laterally as practicable, and shall display simultaneously flashing amber light . . . .

RCW 46.37.010 provides that it is a traffic infraction to violate a statute contained in RCW 46.37.

As Ammons came around a curve, according to his later testimony, he saw a car coming toward him, partly on his side of the road. When he first saw it, it was about 200 feet away and travelling at about 20-25 miles per hour. As it approached, he could see the driver looking in her mirror and touching her hair. Attempting to avoid ...


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