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LORENZ v. CASTE DEVELOPMENT COMPANY (06/27/51)

June 27, 1951

LORENZ
v.
CASTE DEVELOPMENT COMPANY, APPELLANT



Appeals, Nos. 16 and 34, March T., 1951, from order of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, April T., 1948, No. 1724, in case of Frank Lorenz et al. v. Caste Development Co., Manufacturers Light & Heat Co., and Walter B. Gehr. Order affirmed; reargument refused July 26, 1951.

COUNSEL

Clyde A. Armstrong, with him J. Roland Johnston and Thorp, Reed & Armstrong, for Light Company, defendant, appellant.

Harbaugh Miller, with him Samuel M. Jackson, for Development Company, defendant, appellant.

S. W. Pringle, with him Dalzell, McFall, Pringle & Bredin, for Gehr, defendant, appellee.

John E. Evans, Jr., with him Evans, Ivory & Evans, for plaintiffs, appellees.

Before Drew, C.j., Stern, Jones, Bell, Ladner and Chidsey, JJ.

Author: Stern

[ 368 Pa. Page 133]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE HORACE STERN

On November 30, 1947 a violent explosion of gas occurred in a two story house in Overbrook Acres, Whitehall Borough, Allegheny County. Some of the plaintiffs suffered property damage, others personal injuries, and they brought suit against Manufacturers Light & Heat Company, a corporation which supplied the gas through its mains, and Caste Development Company, a corporation which had been the general contractor in the erection of the house. Walter B. Gehr, who had done the plumbing work, was brought on the record as an additional defendant. The complaint, as amended, alleged that the explosion occurred as the result of an accumulation of gas which escaped from the service line on the property and infiltrated into the house; that the Development Company had installed the service line; that the installation was made in a negligent manner; that the Light & Heat Company had inspected and approved the improper installation; that it had notice of a leak but failed to repair it or to turn off the gas at the curb; that it had notice of an odor of gas escaping from the service line but failed to make an adequate examination to determine the cause. During the course of the trial plaintiffs further amended their complaint by adding the allegation that the Light & Heat Company had attached the service line to its main line in a negligent manner in that it had forced the service line downward under great pressure, thereby causing the pipe to become weakened and break, with the consequent escape of gas and the resulting explosion.

A verdict was rendered by the jury in favor of the Development Company and in favor of Gehr, but for the plaintiffs against the Light & Heat Company in

[ 368 Pa. Page 134]

    amounts aggregating $71,961.25. The Light & Heat Company filed motions for a new trial and for judgment n.o.v. The court refused the latter but granted the former as to all three of the defendants. The Light & Heat Company now appeals from the refusal to grant its motion for judgment n.o.v.; the Development Company appeals from the grant, as to it, of a new trial.

Considering first the appeal by the Light & Heat Company, we are of the opinion, after a careful examination of the more than 800 pages of testimony, that it was not entitled to binding instructions and therefore not entitled to the entry of a judgment n.o.v. There is competent evidence to the effect that it was the Light & Heat Company that made the connection between its four inch gas main and the one-and-a-quarter inch service line which extended into plaintiffs' premises. True, no witness testified that he actually saw this attachment being made, but admittedly it was only the Light & Heat Company or the plumber, Gehr, who could have connected the two lines, and, since Gehr and his employes strenuously denied that they had done it, the necessary conclusion from their testimony is that it was the Light & Heat Company which performed that part of the work. Gehr's men testified that, having laid the service pipe on the property, they capped it at the curb end, tested it in the presence of the Light & Heat Company's representative whose business it was to inspect and approve it, and piled the dirt roughly back over the line; when these operations had been performed their part of the work, they said, was completed, leaving it to the Light & Heat Company ...


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