A-18709, JULY 25, 1927, 7 COMP. GEN. 61

A-18709: Jul 25, 1927

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PRIVATE - DAMAGED BY ARMY AMBULANCE WHERE AN ARMY AMBULANCE FAILED TO OBSERVE THE TRAFFIC REGULATIONS WITH RESPECT TO SIGNALING DEVICES AT STREET INTERSECTIONS AND A PRIVATELY-OWNED AUTOMOBILE WAS DAMAGED BY REASON THEREOF. WHEREIN WAS DISALLOWED HIS CLAIM UNDER THE APPROPRIATION CONTAINED IN THE ACT OF APRIL 15. FOR REIMBURSEMENT OF $185.05 PAID FOR REPAIRING DAMAGE TO HIS AUTOMOBILE ALLEGED TO HAVE BEEN SUSTAINED BY BEING STRUCK BY AN ARMY AMBULANCE INCIDENT TO THE TRAINING. THE CLAIM WAS DISALLOWED ON THE ASSUMPTION THAT THE ARMY AMBULANCE HAD THE RIGHT OF WAY AND THEREFORE THAT CLAIMANT WAS NEGLIGENT IN THAT CONNECTION. A BOARD OF OFFICERS APPOINTED TO INVESTIGATE THE MATTER FOUND FROM THE ADMISSIONS OF THE DRIVER OF THE ARMY AMBULANCE AND OTHER TESTIMONY THAT HE WAS INEXPERIENCED AND BELIEVED THAT IN CROSSING STREETS IN WASHINGTON.

A-18709, JULY 25, 1927, 7 COMP. GEN. 61

PROPERTY, PRIVATE - DAMAGED BY ARMY AMBULANCE WHERE AN ARMY AMBULANCE FAILED TO OBSERVE THE TRAFFIC REGULATIONS WITH RESPECT TO SIGNALING DEVICES AT STREET INTERSECTIONS AND A PRIVATELY-OWNED AUTOMOBILE WAS DAMAGED BY REASON THEREOF, A CLAIM FOR AN AMOUNT NOT IN EXCESS OF $500 FOR REIMBURSEMENT OF THE COST OF MAKING REPAIRS, APPROVED BY THE SECRETARY OF WAR, MAY BE PAID UNDER THE APPROPRIATION CONTAINED IN THE ACT OF APRIL 15, 1926, 44 STAT. 259.

DECISION BY COMPTROLLER GENERAL MCCARL, JULY 25, 1927:

EDWARD CLIFFORD REQUESTED MAY 31, 1927, REVIEW OF SETTLEMENT NO. 0185945, DATED MAY 18, 1927, WHEREIN WAS DISALLOWED HIS CLAIM UNDER THE APPROPRIATION CONTAINED IN THE ACT OF APRIL 15, 1926, 44 STAT. 259, FOR REIMBURSEMENT OF $185.05 PAID FOR REPAIRING DAMAGE TO HIS AUTOMOBILE ALLEGED TO HAVE BEEN SUSTAINED BY BEING STRUCK BY AN ARMY AMBULANCE INCIDENT TO THE TRAINING, PRACTICE, OPERATION, OR MAINTENANCE OF THE ARMY.

THE CLAIM WAS DISALLOWED ON THE ASSUMPTION THAT THE ARMY AMBULANCE HAD THE RIGHT OF WAY AND THEREFORE THAT CLAIMANT WAS NEGLIGENT IN THAT CONNECTION.

A BOARD OF OFFICERS APPOINTED TO INVESTIGATE THE MATTER FOUND FROM THE ADMISSIONS OF THE DRIVER OF THE ARMY AMBULANCE AND OTHER TESTIMONY THAT HE WAS INEXPERIENCED AND BELIEVED THAT IN CROSSING STREETS IN WASHINGTON, D.C., AN AMBULANCE HAD THE RIGHT OF WAY EVEN THOUGH HE FAILED TO OBSERVE THE DIRECTIONS OF A SIGNAL DEVICE; THAT THE PATIENTS WHO WERE BEING TRANSPORTED FROM CAMP HUMPHREYS, VA., TO THE WALTER REED HOSPITAL IN TAKOMA PARK, D.C., WERE IN A SERIOUS CONDITION; AND THAT THE DRIVER OF THE ARMY AMBULANCE DROVE THROUGH THE INTERSECTION OF SIXTEENTH AND M STREETS NW., EVEN THOUGH THE SIGNAL DEVICE SHOWED RED AGAINST HIM, STRIKING CLAIMANT'S CAR WHICH WAS BEING DRIVEN BY HIS SON AND DAMAGING IT TO THE EXTENT OF $185.05 FOR REPAIRS. THE SECRETARY OF WAR HAS APPROVED THE CLAIM FOR PAYMENT IN SAID SUM OF $185.05.

THE TRAFFIC REGULATIONS OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA IN EFFECT AT THE TIME OF THE COLLISION PROVIDED, IN ARTICLE 11, SECTION 2 (C), THAT VEHICLES OF THE POLICE, TRAFFIC, FIRE, WATER, AND PUBLIC EMERGENCY VEHICLES, AMBULANCES, AND FUNERAL PROCESSIONS, SHALL AT ALL TIMES HAVE RIGHT OF WAY OVER OTHER VEHICLES, BUT IN SUBPARAGRAPH 2 (E) IT IS PROVIDED THAT:

NOTWITHSTANDING THE PROVISIONS OF PARAGRAPHS (C) AND (D) OF THIS SECTION AND ARTICLE, AT LOCATIONS WHERE A TRAFFIC OFFICER OR A SIGNAL DEVICE IS STATIONED, NO VEHICLE OR STREET CAR SHALL HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY, BUT THE OPERATORS OF ALL VEHICLES AND STREET CARS SHALL COMPLY WITH THE DIRECTIONS GIVEN BY SUCH OFFICER OR DISPLAYED BY SUCH DEVICE.

THESE TRAFFIC REGULATIONS WERE ISSUED PURSUANT TO THE "DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA TRAFFIC ACT" OF MARCH 3, 1925, 43 STAT. 1119, AND ANY REASONABLE REGULATIONS FOR THE CONTROL OF TRAFFIC IN SAID DISTRICT ARE VALID. SEE SMALLWOOD V. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, 17 FED.REP. (2) 210.

NEITHER THE STATUTE NOR THE REGULATIONS EXEMPT ARMY AMBULANCES FROM THE GENERAL RULE THAT ALL VEHICLES, INCLUDING AMBULANCES, MUST OBSERVE SIGNAL DEVICES AT STREET INTERSECTIONS NOR DOES EITHER CONTAIN ANY INTENDMENT THAT SUCH ARMY VEHICLES SHALL JEOPARDIZE THE LIFE AND PROPERTY OF PRIVATE CITIZENS USING THE STREETS IN A LAWFUL MANNER. FURTHERMORE, NO PRESUMPTION OF NEGLIGENCE ON THE PART OF CLAIMANT COULD ARISE MERELY FROM THE FACT THAT THE ARMY AMBULANCE WAS BEING USED IN THE PERFORMANCE OF AN AUTHORIZED GOVERNMENT DUTY OR FUNCTION.

THE APPROPRIATION ACT OF APRIL 15, 1926, SUPRA, PROVIDES FOR THE PAYMENT UNDER CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES AND CONDITIONS, OF CLAIMS FOR DAMAGES TO OR LOSS OF PRIVATE PROPERTY,"INCIDENT TO THE TRAINING, PRACTICE, OPERATION, OR MAINTENANCE OF THE ARMY.' THE MAINTENANCE OF AN ARMY IS A PUBLIC GOVERNMENTAL FUNCTION AND THE CONGRESS HAS PROVIDED FOR THE PAYMENT OF CLAIMS FOR DAMAGES TO PRIVATE PROPERTY INCIDENT THERETO. AS THIS CLAIM AROSE INCIDENT TO THE OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE OF THE ARMY AND WITHOUT THE FAULT OR NEGLIGENCE OF THE CLAIMANT OR THE DRIVER OF HIS CAR, AND THE FACTS OF THE DAMAGE AND THE AMOUNT THEREOF HAVING BEEN DETERMINED IN THE MANNER PROVIDED BY LAW, PAYMENT OF THE APPROVED SUM IS AUTHORIZED.