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Guests Cases Summarized By Personal Injury Attorney

This page within Virginia Tort Case Law is a compilation of cases reported by the Virginia Supreme Court and summarized by Brien Roche dealing with the topic of Guests and the related topic of vehicle accidents.  For more information on guest actions see the pages on Wikipedia.


See Va. Code § 8.01-63 abrogating guest statute.


1983 Community Motor Bus Co. v. Windley, 224 Va. 687, 299 S.E.2d 367.

Bus driver who abruptly stopped bus, thereby throwing plaintiff passenger to floor after rock had crashed through window was not guilty of gross negligence under former guest statute. Gross negligence is utter disregard of prudence amounting to complete neglect of safety.

1979 McMillan v. McMillan, 219 Va. 1127, 253 S.E.2d 662.

Wife-passenger sued husband-driver for injuries received in motor vehicle accident in Tennessee. Tennessee common law, place of wrong, applied and defense of interspousal immunity sustained.

1977 Holland v. Holland, 217 Va. 874, 234 S.E.2d 65.

Plaintiff-guest, wife of defendant-driver, stating on stand that husband did nothing wrong was bound by statement and she may not recover.

1976 Duffer v. Newman, 217 Va. 415, 229 S.E.2d 860.

Guest injured in defendant’s automobile when it left road. No evidence as to what caused defendant to lose control. Only evidence of excessive speed; no evidence that such speed was proximate cause. Action of trial court setting aside jury verdict affirmed.

1975 Holloway v. Conner, 215 Va. 422, 211 S.E.2d 39.

Plaintiff guest killed when defendant drove vehicle into bridge. No showing of gross negligence; plaintiff not entitled to recover for ordinary negligence.

1974 Reagan v. Reagan, 215 Va. 222, 207 S.E.2d 888.

Guest action; jury could reasonably have inferred that defendant drove car across multiple lanes of heavily traveled, multi-laned, divided highway with 40 mph limit without keeping proper lookout.

1974 Groome v. Birkhead, 214 Va. 429, 201 S.E.2d 789.

Statement by passenger, mother of driver, that she would pay for gas for trip did not elevate her to paying passenger. This was merely gratuitous measure of family member.

1973 Peters v. Shortt, 214 Va. 399, 200 S.E.2d 547.

Plaintiff and defendant agreed to share cost of gas on trip. This was consideration for transportation and thus made plaintiff a paying passenger as matter of law.

1973 Shelley v. West, 213 Va. 611, 194 S.E.2d 899.

Guest injured in drag race involving defendant driver. Court could not hold as matter of law that defendant driver was not guilty of gross negligence.

1973 Habers v. Madigan, 213 Va. 485, 193 S.E.2d 653.

Evidence of excessive speed and that dome light inside car was on after impact created jury issue on gross negligence.

1972 Monk v. Hess, 213 Va. 244, 191 S.E.2d 229.

Guest drinking with driver, both boasting of speeds of 160 mph, guest boasted of being able to stay in car at that speed. These admissions clearly evidence spirit of venturousness and amount to assumption of risk.

1972 Budzinski v. Harris, 213 Va. 107, 189 S.E.2d 372.

Assumption of risk and contributory negligence discussed, re: guest riding with driver knowingly intoxicated to point driving ability impaired.

1972 Brennan v. Kaylor, 213 Va. 33, 189 S.E.2d 371.

Various guests injured when defendant unexplainedly drove off highway and crashed into field some 330 feet away. Plaintiff failed to show how and why accident occurred. Plaintiff especially did not show grossly negligent act of defendant.

1972 Dalton v. Lawrence, 212 Va. 530, 186 S.E.2d 90.

Contributory negligence of driver cannot be imputed to passenger in passenger’s action against driver of following vehicle.

1971 Smith v. Kauffman, 212 Va. 181, 183 S.E.2d 190.

For purposes of the guest statute, child can become guest in motor vehicle and subject himself to gross negligence rule only if he can knowingly and voluntarily accept invitation to become guest. Child under the age of 14 years, is incapable of such.

1971 McFadden v. Garrett, 211 Va. 680, 179 S.E.2d 482.

Plaintiff held not to be guest in his car driven by defendant. Needed to prove only that defendant was guilty of ordinary negligence which proximately caused accident. Failure to present evidence on cause of accident, led to striking of plaintiff’s evidence. Affirmed.

1970 Baker v. John Doe, 211 Va. 158, 176 S.E.2d 436.

Automobile left highway and struck brick wall; plaintiff guest injured. Plaintiff pleaded against defendant and John Doe in alternative not allowed at common law, by statute, or by rule of court. Improper misjoinder of parties.

1969 Duncan v. Cox, 209 Va. 649, 166 S.E.2d 107.

Plaintiff guest injured when defendant driver reached over to get candy from passenger and took eyes off road one to two seconds. The vehicle left roadway and struck tree stump. Defendant tried to regain control after vehicle left roadway. Evidence does not support verdict for plaintiff under gross negligence standard: reveals nothing more than momentary inattention.

1969 Terry v. Fagan, 209 Va. 642, 166 S.E.2d 254.

Plaintiff guest injured when defendant driver burned himself with cigarette ash and took hands off wheel. The vehicle left highway and crashed into tree. Defendant had one drink of vodka prior to accident; plaintiff unaware of this. Plaintiff did not assume risk of unknown danger and had no duty to take over steering wheel.

1968 Sturman v. Johnson, 209 Va. 227, 163 S.E.2d 170.

Plaintiff guest or passenger injured when defendant driver’s vehicle left highway and crashed. Plaintiff claimed he had agreed to pay half cost of trip; defendant denied this. Jury question presented as to whether or not plaintiff was guest or passenger. Plaintiff testified he fell asleep, awoke to find car traveling about 90 mph, saw defendant awake and was about to protest when vehicle hit something and left highway. Error to strike plaintiff’s evidence on either gross negligence or ordinary negligence.

1968 Major v. Hoppe, 209 Va. 193, 163 S.E.2d 164.

Plaintiff guest injured in head-on collision on unmarked undivided two lane road. Evidence that defendant driver had been drinking. Error to strike plaintiff’s evidence. Contributory negligence not established as matter of law.

1967 Redd v. Ingram, 207 Va. 939, 154 S.E.2d 149.

Defendant admitted driving recklessly without objection from plaintiff-passenger when entered into race with another vehicle and accident occurred. Error to grant instruction on assumption of risk which limited issue only in relation to race.

1966 Stoner v. Robertson, 207 Va. 633, 151 S.E.2d 363.

Gross negligence admitted by defendant who was driving at excessive speed, on wrong side of crooked and hilly road, and had been drinking. Although fellow passenger requested and was allowed to leave vehicle, plaintiff’s decedent, by remaining in vehicle, assumed risk as matter of law.

1966 Laughorn v. Eanes, 207 Va. 584, 151 S.E.2d 378.

Gross negligence guest case. Momentary inattention is ordinary negligence only.

1963 Gilliland v. Singleton, 204 Va. 115, 129 S.E.2d 641.

Parties had formed carpool. So long as operator is compensated in substantial business sense, guests will be deemed paying guests.

1962 Bernard v. Bohanan, 203 Va. 372, 124 S.E.2d 191.

Plaintiff was paying passenger who had contributed equally to defray travel expenses.

1960 Parker v. Leavitt, 201 Va. 919, 114 S.E.2d 732.

Defendant allowed to drive plaintiff’s car with plaintiff in car. Plaintiff was not guest without payment.

1960 Thomas v. Dowdy, 201 Va. 581, 112 S.E.2d 868.

Plaintiff paid 20 cents for ride home each night. Held: paying passenger, not guest.

1959 Richardson v. Charles, 201 Va. 426, 111 S.E.2d 401.

Defendant in pursuit of his own business interest was driving plaintiff in defendant’s vehicle. Plaintiff was passenger as matter of law and not guest.

1959 Jenkins v. Womack, 201 Va. 68, 109 S.E.2d 97.

Plaintiff was in automobile to teach defendant how to park automobile. This was pure gratuity and he was not paying passenger of defendant who was his friend.

1958 Gammon v. Hyde, 199 Va. 918, 103 S.E.2d 221.

Plaintiff passenger in defendant’s vehicle contributed $50 to defendant to cover cost of trip. Plaintiff was paying passenger and not guest without payment.

1957 Smith v. Tatum, 199 Va. 85, 97 S.E.2d 820.

Decedent volunteered to go with defendant to give her driving lesson. Decedent held to be guest.

1956 Hill Hdwe. Corp. v. Hesson, 198 Va. 425, 94 S.E.2d 256.

Where party’s son was driving friend of his father to his father’s home to do some work for which he was not to be paid, court correctly ruled that friend was guest and not paying passenger.

1955 Newell v. Riggins, 197 Va. 490, 90 S.E.2d 150.

Plaintiff guest in defendant’s vehicle was not contributorily negligent for failing to direct or control defendant driver who fell asleep at wheel where there was no evidence in his manner or conduct to indicate that he might drive negligently or go to sleep.

1955 Garst v. Obenchain, 196 Va. 664, 85 S.E.2d 207.

If guest knows or should know that operator is driving in negligent manner, it is duty of guest to take same precautions that reasonably prudent person would take under circumstances. These precautions usually take the form of warning driver of dangers, protestation or even leaving automobile at first opportunity.

1955 Dickerson v. Miller, 196 Va. 659, 85 S.E.2d 275.

With respect to payment, it is not necessary that operator receive actual cash. Services or other benefits given by occupant if regarded by parties as consideration inducing offer of transportation may be sufficient to entitle occupant to status of paying passenger. More than incidental benefit must have induced defendant to extend ride.

1954 Kennedy v. McElroy, 195 Va. 1078, 81 S.E.2d 436.

Plaintiff guest injured when defendant drove car into stop sign at intersection. Fact that defendant’s conduct was deliberate provides important evidence of gross negligence (i.e., defendant meant to speed, to cross over solid line, and to run stop sign).

1953 Alspaugh v. Diggs, 195 Va. 1, 77 S.E.2d 362.

Plaintiffs injured when car operated by defendant and in which they were riding left highway and struck electric pole. Plaintiffs claimed deliberate inattention on part of defendant; evidence held insufficient to support jury verdict finding gross negligence.

1953 Davis v. Williams, 194 Va. 541, 74 S.E.2d 58.

Passenger is one carried for hire or reward as distinguished from guest who is carried with no financial return except such benefits as are part of ordinary courtesy.

1952 Bonich v. Waite, 194 Va. 374, 73 S.E.2d 389.

Wife of operator of stalled car owed duty to husband to warn him of what she considered impending danger.

1952 Carr v. Patram, 193 Va. 604, 70 S.E.2d 308.

Plaintiff guest brought action against defendant driver (her mother) to recover for injuries when car went out of control and flipped over. Car hit slight bump just before accident. Plaintiff called problem to defendant’s attention. Accident then occurred no gross negligence.

1952 Sibley v. Slayton, 193 Va. 470, 69 S.E.2d 466.

Plaintiff’s decedent guest was killed when defendant’s vehicle struck chuck hole. Gross negligence not shown.

1952 McDowell v. Dye, 193 Va. 390, 69 S.E.2d 459.

Plaintiff guest in defendant’s car was injured when car left road and struck pole. Defendant driving 35 in 15 mph zone and tried to get cola away from plaintiff who was in rear seat. Plaintiff protested speed and attempt to get drink. Question of gross negligence properly for jury.

1951 Mitchell v. Wilkerson, 193 Va. 121, 67 S.E.2d 912.

Plaintiff guest injured when defendant’s truck overturned. Defendant’s cumulative acts of omission and/or commission may have evinced total disregard for rights of plaintiff, presenting question for jury as to gross negligence.

1951 Atlantic Coast Line Ry. v. Withers, 192 Va. 493, 65 S.E.2d 654.

When danger arising out of operation of vehicle by another is manifest to passenger or guest who has adequate opportunity to control situation and he sits without protest and permits himself to be driven to his injury, his negligence will bar recovery.

1951 Steele v. Crocker, 191 Va. 873, 62 S.E.2d 850.

Plaintiff was guest in defendant’s vehicle. Guest in automobile should not undertake to drive and may trust driver until it becomes plain that such trust is misplaced.

1949 Butler v. Darden, 189 Va. 459, 53 S.E.2d 146.

While negligence of driver is not to be imputed to passenger, passenger must exercise reasonable care for his own safety. He must look and listen and warn his driver if he sees train approaching.

1949 Ransone v. Pankey, 189 Va. 200, 52 S.E.2d 97.

Negligence of driver of vehicle in which guest passenger is injured cannot ordinarily be imputed to passenger and invoked as defense by joint tortfeasor whose negligence was also proximate contributing cause. Exception to rule is in some joint enterprise.

1949 Via v. Badanes, 189 Va. 44, 52 S.E.2d 174.

Plaintiff violated no duty she owed for safety of herself or others; nevertheless, in order to recover compensation, she must carry burden of proving that injuries she sustained were direct result of negligence of one or more drivers who owed her duty of exercising proper care for her safety.

1948 Miller v. Ellis, 188 Va. 207, 49 S.E.2d 273.

Discussion of distinction between guests and passenger that sets forth various factors to be considered in making this distinction.

1948 Millard v. Cohen, 187 Va. 44, 46 S.E.2d 2.

Wife’s words of admonition to husband driver do not create any inference of negligence.

1946 Highway Express Lines v. Fleming, 185 Va. 666, 40 S.E.2d 294.

Plaintiff was passenger in hayride wagon. She was president of club that had arranged hayride. No joint venture or agency found to exist between plaintiff and driver of wagon.

1946 ACLR Co. v. Clements, 184 Va. 656, 36 S.E.2d 553.

Negligence of driver could not be imputed to infant passenger.

1945 Braxton v. Flippo, 183 Va. 839, 33 S.E.2d 757.

Where employee who is being driven home by his employer is asked to drive vehicle or is allowed to drive so that employer may test his driving skills, that employee is neither guest nor volunteer.

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