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JOHNSON v. ANGRETTI (ET AL. (05/22/50)

May 22, 1950


Appeals, Nos. 37, 38, 39, 66, 67, 68, 70, 71 and 72, March T., 1950, from judgments of Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County, Sept. T., 1948, Nos. 51 and 229, in case of Frederick Johnson, Admr., Estate of Jerome Johnson, deceased, et al. v. Carl M. Angretti et al., trading as Hull Resurfacing Company et al., and Brown et al. v. Same. Judgments affirmed.


John D. Ray, with him Reed, Ewing & Ray, for plaintiffs, appellants.

J. Quint Salmon, with him Wilson & Salmon, for defendant, Stewart Hull, appellant, appellee.

Wayne G. Luce, for defendant transit company, appellee.

Before Drew, C.j., Stern, Stearne and Bell, JJ.

Author: Stern

[ 364 Pa. Page 604]


On a September morning -- the weather clear and the road dry -- Jerome Johnson was driving a tractor and trailer on behalf of Brown Brothers, who owned the vehicles, in a westerly direction along the northerly side of a State highway from Beaver toward Midland. A bus of the Valley Motor Transit Company was being operated on the southerly side of the same highway from west to east, followed at a short distance by a truck driven by one Osterling and it in turn by a truck driven by one Angretti. The bus stopped momentarily to take on a passenger; Osterling, behind it, likewise stopped; Angretti claims that he also attempted to stop, but for some reason (he says that when he put on his brakes he pulled -- or "it pulled" him -- "a little bit" to the left) he came over to the north side of the highway directly into the path of the westbound truck-trailer which had then already passed the standing bus. The two vehicles collided and Johnson was killed. The administrator of his estate brought an action for damages under the Wrongful Death and the Survival Statutes against Angretti and against Stanley Hull individually and trading as Hull Resurfacing Company, the alleged employer

[ 364 Pa. Page 605]

    of Angretti;*fn* Brown Brothers also brought an action against the same defendants to recover for the damage to their tractor-trailer; in both actions Hull brought Valley Motor Transit Company on the record as an additional defendant. The jury found verdicts aggregating $18,000 in favor of the administrator of Jerome Johnson's estate, and a verdict of $5,000 in favor of Brown Brothers, all the verdicts being against Angretti, Hull, and Valley Motor Transit Company. The court granted motions of Hull and Valley Motor Transit Company for judgments n.o.v., and plaintiffs now appeal from that action of the court.

Plaintiffs seek to fasten liability upon Valley Motor Transit Company because of alleged violations by the operator of its bus of sections 1012(a) and 1019 of The Vehicle Code of May 1, 1929, P.L. 905, as amended. Section 1012(a) provides that the driver of any vehicle on a highway, before starting, stopping or turning from a direct line, shall first see that such movement can be made in safety, and whenever the operation of any other vehicle approaching or following may be affected by such movement shall give a signal of his intention plainly visible to the driver of such other vehicle. Plaintiffs cannot rely upon this section as a basis for imputing negligence to the operator of the bus for the uncontradicted testimony is that the bus came to a very gradual stop and the flashing stop lights on its rear furnished an adequate signal to the vehicle that was following, so that Osterling, seeing the lights, had no difficulty in bringing his truck to a stop at a safe distance behind

[ 364 Pa. Page 606]

    the bus. As to section 1019 of the Code, which provides that no vehicle shall be parked or left standing upon any highway unless a clear and unobstructed width of not less than fifteen feet upon the main traveled portion of the highway opposite such standing vehicle shall be left for free passage of other vehicles thereon, plaintiffs' contention is that this provision was violated because, when the bus stopped, its right-hand wheels went only about 2 to 2 1/2 feet off the concrete, and, as the bus was 8 feet in width and the highway 18 feet, this left but 12 or 12 1/2 feet of the paved portion of the road clear for traffic in both directions. The fact is, however, that, while the gravel berm had an average width of 10 feet, its width at the place where the bus stopped, which was a regular marked bus stop, was only 3 1/2 feet, the highway there being bordered at that distance by a hedge fence. Apart from the fact that apparently, therefore, it would have been physically impossible for the bus to have gone any further off the concrete the decisions are numerous to the effect that section 1019 of the Code was not intended to prohibit the momentary stopping of a vehicle or a temporary obstruction of the highway if for a proper purpose and under proper circumstances: Henry v. S. Liebovitz & Sons, Inc., 312 Pa. 397, 401, 167 A. 304, 305, 306; Stuckwish v. Hagan Corporation, 316 Pa. 513, 517, 175 A. 381, 383; Struppler v. Rexford, 326 Pa. 545, 548, 549, 192 A. 886, 888; Fritz, Administratrix, v. York Motor Express Co., 358 Pa. 398, 401, 402, 58 A.2d 12, 13. Moreover it is clear that such alleged ...

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