that the bell boy saw the bulge; he testified that he did not see it. Secondly, if he did see it there is nothing to show that he saw it in time to warn the plaintiff. Plaintiff's wife said she saw the bulge but did not see it in time to warn her husband. It would have been error to permit the jury to speculate as to whether the bell boy saw the bulge, and saw it in time to warn the plaintiff. The essential element of knowledge on the part of the employee is not present here, and a duty to warn of a danger cannot exist in the absence of such knowledge. There was no evidence of negligence to submit to the jury.
II. The Plaintiff was Guilty of Contributory Negligence as a Matter of Law.
Aside from the failure to establish any negligent conduct on the part of the defendant, under the law of Pennsylvania plaintiff was also guilty of contributory negligence as a matter of law.
The law requires that a person be observant of where and how he is going so as to avoid dangers which ordinary prudence would disclose. Lerner v. City of Philadelphia, 1908, 221 Pa. 294, 70 A. 755, 21 L.R.A.,N.S., 614. If he does not use the senses which are available to him to discover a dangerous condition, he may be declared guilty of contributory negligence as a matter of law. Bartek v. Grossman, 1947, 356 Pa. 522, 52 A.2d 209.
Plaintiff's counsel argue that the trunk blocked plaintiff's vision and that he relied on the bell boy to guide him safely. Plaintiff, however, did not testify that he could not see where he was going. He merely testified that as he was carrying the rear end of a trunk his foot hit an obstruction and he fell. Plaintiff's counsel would have the Court infer that it was impossible for him to see where he was going because of the trunk. The trunk in question was only about 36 inches long and 20 inches wide, and it is therefore difficult to understand how his vision could be completely obstructed by an object of this size. It should be noted that immediately prior to his fall, plaintiff, in descending the stairs, occupied a higher step than the bell boy and thus must have had a clear view of the lower lobby and the mat in front of the door- at least there is nothing in the evidence to indicate otherwise. If he had looked, he would have seen a bulge in the mat which was 5 or 6 inches high.
Furthermore, if plaintiff was carrying the trunk in a manner which completly obstructed his vision, he was still guilty of contributory negligence as a matter of law.
In Malloy v. Castle Shannon Borough, 1942, 344 Pa. 469, 25 A.2d 722, a woman stepped into a hole in a sidewalk which was plainly visible, but her vision was obstructed by a baby she was carrying. It was held that plaintiff was contributorily negligent as a matter of law in voluntarily impeding her view and disabling herself from the proper performance of her duty to look where she was going.
In Lautenbacher v. Philadelphia, 1907, 217 Pa. 318, 66 A. 549, plaintiff and her sister were carrying a couch. Plaintiff's sister was on the lead end of the couch and walking backwards; plaintiff was on the other end facing her sister. Though her sister avoided a hole in the sidewalk, plaintiff stepped into it and fell. In affirming a judgment n.o.v. for the defendant, the court held that plaintiff, by carrying the couch in the way she did, voluntarily impeded her view and disabled herself from the proper performance of her duty to look where she was going and thus was guilty of contributory negligence as a matter of law.
As to plaintiff's contention that plaintiff could rely on the bell boy to guide him safely out of the building, no individual in full possession of his sense of sight is justified in relying solely on the watchfulness of another for his own safety. Hoffner v. Bergdoll, 1933, 309 Pa. 558, 164 A. 607. The rule is just as applicable to the instant case even though the bell boy was an employee of the defendant. In Bartek v. Grossman, 356 Pa. 522, 52 A.2d 209, supra, plaintiff was interested in renting defendant's vacant store, and went to inspect the premises with defendant's agent. Plaintiff entered the premises under the agent's guidance and while he followed him from a lighted room into a dark room, he fell into an open trapdoor. The court found plaintiff guilty of contributory negligence as a matter of law, pointing out that plaintiff refused to avail himself of his senses and in blind confidence followed the agent who was ahead of him. The court held that plaintiff could not delegate his own duty to exercise due care and that if he did he was guilty of contributory negligence.
For the reasons set forth in this opinion I conclude that the plaintiff failed to establish negligence on the part of the defendant, that the plaintiff was guilty of contributory negligence as a matter of law, and that the direction of a verdict for the defendant was proper.
An appropriate order denying plaintiff's motion for a new trial will be filed forthwith.