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BRUCE ET AL. v. PITTSBURGH HOUSING AUTHORITY (11/13/50)

November 13, 1950

BRUCE ET AL.,
v.
PITTSBURGH HOUSING AUTHORITY, APPELLANT



Appeals, Nos. 213 and 214, March T., 1950, from judgments of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, April T., 1948, No. 2946, in case of Altha Lea Bruce et al. v. Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh. Judgments reversed.

COUNSEL

Samuel W. Pringe, with him Dalzell, McFall, Pringle & Bredin, for appellant.

James A. Wright, for appellees.

Before Drew, C.j. Stern, Stearne, Jones, Lander and Chidsey, JJ.

Author: Drew

[ 365 Pa. Page 571]

OPINION BY MR. CHIEF JUSTICE DREW

Minor plaintiff, Altha L. Bruce, and her mother, Mildred E. Bruce, obtained verdicts totaling $6000 in

[ 365 Pa. Page 572]

    a trespass action, in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, against defendant, Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh, for injuries sustained by minor plaintiff in a building in defendant's Arlington Heights Housing Project. Motions for a judgment n.o.v. and new trial were refused but in the latter instance a proviso was added conditioning the refusal of a new trial on the filing by the minor plaintiff of a stipulation remitting all of the verdict in her favor above $3500. The remittitur was subsequently filed and, from the judgment in favor of plaintiff, defendant has brought this appeal.

Defendant, as a public corporation organized pursuant to the Act of May 28, 1937, P.L. 955, owns and operates a number of housing projects including the Arlington Heights Housing Project. The accident in which minor plaintiff was injured occurred in a laundry located in a building of this project, designated building Number 22. Minor plaintiff, at the time, was living in an apartment in another building but was, nevertheless, familiar with the interior of the laundry and the general location of the various pieces of laundering equipment furnished therein for the use of the tenants. The laundry is approximately 75 feet long and 25 feet wide. Seven sets of double stationary tubs, with a space of about 10 feet between them, run almost the length of the room. At one end of the tubs, and adjacent to the inner wall of the building, there is a 6-foot wide aisle, running the entire length of the building. A parallel aisle, 3 feet wide, occupies the space between the other end of the tubs and the outer wall of the building. Affixed to this outer wall and jutting out 18 inches into the 3-foot aisle are gas burning hot plates, spaced approximately 12 feet apart. Above and to the side of these hot plates, windows are set in the outer wall of the laundry at a height of about 3-1/2 feet above the floor of the building. Nine panes of glass, 18-1/2 inches

[ 365 Pa. Page 573]

    long by 12 inches high or wide, set in steel frames or separators, form each of the windows. The illumination afforded thereby is supplemented by a number of electric lights which are turned on or off at will by those using the laundry. The weekday hours of operation of the laundry are from 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. with the exception of Wednesday when it is kept open until 9:00 P.M. for the convenience of some of the tenants.

The accident in which minor plaintiff was injured occurred at approximately seven-thirty on the night of Wednesday, April 24, 1946. A short time prior thereto, minor plaintiff, who was then only nine, while skating on a new pair of roller skates in front of the apartment building occupied by her family, decided to go to another building to see a friend. As she was about to pass building Number 22, a woman called to her and asked her to go into the laundry and shut off an electric washing machine. Minor plaintiff went into the laundry to do so but instead of skating down the wider of the two aisles, she chose to follow the 3-foot aisle near the outer wall of the building. Some small fragments of glass, which had fallen to the floor when a window pane was broken in the second window from the door, were scattered in this aisle in an area a foot and a half square. Minor plaintiff had gotten as far as this second window when one of her skates struck a small piece of the glass on the floor and she lost her balance. Some jagged splinters of glass were still lodged in the frame and, as minor plaintiff reached out ...


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