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WUJNOVICH v. EQUIPMENT CORP. OF AMERICA

March 16, 1944

WUJNOVICH
v.
EQUIPMENT CORPORATION OF AMERICA (CRUCIBLE STEEL CO. OF AMERICA, Third-Party Defendant)



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SCHOONMAKER

This action originated in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, and was removed from that court to this court on petition of the defendant. After its removal to this court, the defendant Equipment Corporation of America brought in Crucible Steel Company of America as a third-party defendant.

 When the case came to this court, the Equipment Corporation moved to make the Crucible Steel Company, the employer of plaintiff, a third-party defendant. This motion was granted, and the Equipment Corporation filed a third-party complaint, charging that the Crucible Steel Company was solely negligent, or jointly negligent with the Equipment Corporation. The Crucible Steel Company, a third-party defendant, answered the third-party complaint, denying negligence on its part.

 The plaintiff did not amend its complaint, so as to charge the Crucible Steel Company with negligence. The case was tried before a jury with the result that the plaintiff recovered a verdict against defendant, Equipment Corporation, in the sum of $38,000. And on the third-party complaint of the Equipment Corporation against the Crucible Steel Company, the jury rendered a verdict in favor of the third-party defendant, Crucible Steel Company.

 The defendant, Equipment Corporation, has moved for the setting aside of the verdict and to enter judgment for the defendant in accordance with its motion filed at the conclusion of the trial; and, if that motion be refused, for a new trial. At a later date, the defendant filed some twenty-five additional reasons for a new trial. On the argument, counsel for defendant presented for consideration of the court, six questions which we will now consider.

 The first question is whether or not the court should have referred to the jury the question of whether or not the Crucible Steel Company was negligent in failing to inspect the leased equipment. We said to the jury:

 "If the Crucible Steel Company failed to make an examination of this equipment when it came to it, that of itself would not relieve the Equipment Corporation from the responsibility of the result of an improper assembly of this stocket, wedge and cable; when they assembled it they should have put it together with equipment and wedges that would properly hold the load that the crane, as leased by the Crucible Steel Company, was intended to be used."

 And again, on pages 605, 606, and 607, we said to the jury:

 "Now, as to the third party complaint, your verdict in that case, if you find that there was negligence on the part of the Equipment Corporation, and that as a result of that negligence the plaintiff was injured, you then would take up the question of whether there was any negligence on the part of the Crucible Steel Company which may be said to have contributed to the injury which the plaintiff suffered in this case. For instance, if you find from the evidence that the foreman of the Crucible plant who was directing this operation directed the plaintiff to stand upon this car that was being unloaded in a dangerous position, when at that time there was a safer one, that would be negligence on the part of the Crucible Steel Company which would justify the entry of a verdict against that company on the third party complaint. Then, if there were improper operation of the crane by the operator employed by the Crucible Steel Company which caused the cable to slip and the crane to fall, that would be such negligence on the part of the Crucible Steel Company as would justify a verdict against that company.

 "You may note upon the order for the lease of this equipment that there are some terms printed on the back of the rental agreement, and we say to you that, whatever those terms are, they have no bearing upon any issue that is involved in this case and will not be considered by the jury. We further say to you on this third party complaint that, unless you enter a verdict or find a verdict in favor of Nick Wujnovich against the Equipment Corporation of America, there can be no verdict against the Crucible Steel Company, the third party defendant. We further say to you that if the Equipment Corporation delivered the crane in a dangerous condition, either knowingly or negligently, and if the Crucible Steel Company did not know its dangerous condition, and as a result the boom fell and injured the plaintiff, the Equipment Corporation would not be entitled to any contribution against the Crucible Steel Company, and there should be no verdict against that company. We further say to you that if the crane boom fell because it had been negligently assembled, and if its dangerous condition before the fall could not have been discovered by such inspection that the Crucible Steel Company was bound to make, the Crucible Steel Company is not liable to any other party in this case."

 We believe we sufficiently submitted to the jury the question of negligence, if any, on the part of the Crucible Steel Company. This is not a case in which the condition of the wedge and socket would be disclosed by a reasonable inspection. As we view the case, the defective condition of the wedge and socket could not have been discovered without a disassembly of the equipment and that the Crucible Steel Company was not required to do. It had the right to rely on the fact that the equipment was in proper condition to operate for the purposes for which it was leased. See Trusty v, Patterson, 299 Pa. 469, 149 A. 717; Lambert v. Richards-Kelly Co., 348 Pa. 407, 35 A.2d 76; Sagonowich v. Hachikian, 348 Pa. 313, 35 A.2d 343; Ebbert v. Philadelphia Electric Co., 330 Pa. 257, 198 A. 323.

 The second question is whether or not the court should have specifically submitted to the jury the proximate cause of the accident. We believe that our charge sufficiently covered this point and see no error in our charge as to this.

 The third point raises the question of whether or not we erred in charging the jury that the defendant warranted the crane to be suitable for the purpose the Crucible Steel Company was to use it. We are of the opinion that one who supplies machinery to another warrants the safe and proper assembly of the machine he supplies for the purposes for ...


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