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SLINGLUFF v. DENNIS (ET AL. (01/04/54)

January 4, 1954


Appeals, Nos. 236, 237 and 238, March T., 1953, from judgments of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, April T., 1950, No. 2403, in case of Walter U. Slingluff et ux. and John W. Slingluff v. J. B. Dennis, A. J. Cable and Calack Company. Judgments affirmed; reargument refused January 25, 1954.


Bruce R. Martin, with him Dalzell, Pringle, Bredin & Martin, for appellant.

Robert B. Ivory, with him H. E. McCamey, Evans, Ivory & Evans and Dickie, McCamey, Chilcote, Reif & Robinson, for appellees.

Before Stern, C.j., Stearne, Jones, Bell, Chidsey, Musmanno and Arnold, JJ.

Author: Jones

[ 376 Pa. Page 93]


The plaintiffs, Walter U. Slingluff, his wife, Ruth L., and his son, John W., instituted actions in trespass against Jean B. Dennis to recover damages for personal injuries suffered by them in a collision of automotive vehicles allegedly caused by the defendant's negligence. Later, but within the statutory period of limitations, the plaintiffs, by amendment averring Dennis's agency, brought upon the record as additional defendants Dennis's alleged principals, Austin J. Cable and the Calack Company, an Ohio corporation. Cable and the Calack Company filed separate answers denying Dennis's agency. Upon trial, the jury returned a verdict for each of the plaintiffs against all of the defendants. The court en banc granted Cable's motion for judgment n.o.v. but denied the motions of the other defendants for a new trial and for judgment n.o.v. except as to Ruth L. Slingluff. In respect of her action, the court granted a new trial unless she filed a remittitur of so much of the verdict in her favor as

[ 376 Pa. Page 94]

    exceeded $200 which she duly filed. The court then entered judgments on the verdicts from which the Calack Company has appealed, assigning for error insufficiency of the evidence to impose liability on the appellant, various rulings of the trial judge, inadequacies of the charge, and excessiveness of the verdict in favor of John W. Slingluff. The defendant Dennis has not appealed.

It is unnecessary to relate in detail the facts, as testified to by the plaintiffs, concerning the happening of the accident. They are undisputed. Dennis drove his truck, laden with oil drums, into the rear of Walter Slingluff's disabled automobile parked at the side of a twenty-five foot main highway. The force of the truck's impact rammed the Slingluff car forward into the automobile of Walter's son, John Slingluff, parked immediately ahead, catching Walter and John between the bumpers of their automobiles where they were fastening a towline. Both were injured seriously. Mrs. Slingluff, who was sitting in her husband's car, sustained minor injuries. There is not the slightest doubt that the evidence justifies a finding that the accident was the result of negligence on the part of Dennis.

The one important dispute in the case is as to the nature of the relationship between Dennis on the one hand and the Calack Company on the other. Cable was the president and owner of one-half of the stock of the Calack Company which was a close family corporation engaged in the general contracting business. Dennis was the holder of an oil and grease distributorship from a Pittsburgh oil company and, trading as J. B. Dennis Products Company, he sold oil and grease to Calack for its use. About December 1, 1949, Dennis and Cable, acting for Calack Company, met to consider the possibility of forming a business association between the two concerns. Dennis was interested

[ 376 Pa. Page 95]

    in obtaining financing for his distributorship and Calack Company, whose contracting business was seasonal, was looking for an additional business interest. As a result of their negotiations, Calack Company and Dennis, according to the latter, on December 15, 1949, entered into a business association for the sale of oil and grease. Cable denied this But, the evidence in the case fully warranted the jury in accrediting Dennis's version. In fact, the drums of oil which Dennis was transporting at the time of the accident for delivery to customers had been purchased by him in Pittsburgh with certified checks supplied by Calack Company and drawn to the order of the wholesaler. Furthermore, Cable, on December 23rd, upon learning of the accident, called the police in Sewickley, in the vicinity of the accident, and told ...

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