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HUDGINS v. UNITED STATES

July 2, 1954

HUDGINS
v.
UNITED STATES



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GRIM

In Philadelphia at approximately 5:00 A. M. on November 20, 1948, plaintiff, Eugene A. Hudgins, was driving his 1942 Buick two-door sedan at a speed of 15 to 20 miles an hour eastwardly in the eastbound or southern half of the wide two-way center street (hereinafter referred to as the 'highway') of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and approaching the intersection of 21st Street, *fn1" which runs one-way northbound. It was dark and hazy and raining heavily. Visibility was very poor.

 The left front wheel and fender of the mail truck struck the right front wheel and fender of the Buick. Both vehicles were heavily damaged. The engine of the Buick was pushed back into the front seat and the entire front end was smashed in. The damage to the Buick resulting from the collision amounted to $ 925. *fn2"

 The collision and resultant property damage and personal injuries sustained by plaintiff were caused solely by the negligence of defendant's employee, Calvin J. Whaley. He was negligent in his operation of the mail truck in that (1) he was travelling at an excessive speed under the circumstances, (2) he failed to have the mail truck under proper control, and (3) he disobeyed the direction of the traffic signal at the southeast corner of the intersection, in violation of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code. 75 P.S. § 635. Hudgins had the green light in his favor, had entered the intersection before the mail truck, and had no opportunity to get out of the mail truck's way in order to avoid the collision. Under these circumstances, I find that plaintiff was free from contributory negligence.

 There was a direct conflict between plaintiff's testimony and that of Whaley, the mail truck driver. Plaintiff testified that he had the green light in his favor until the collision occurred. Whaley testified that before entering the highway he saw plaintiff's car 25 feet west of 21st Street and proceeding eastwardly on the highway toward 21st Street; that Whaley had the green light upon entering the highway; that after entering the highway he did not again look to his left (toward plaintiff's car); that after the mail truck had gotten half way across the (eighty-foot wide) highway the light changed to yellow and Whaley immediately began to apply his brakes; and that the collision occurred as he began to apply his brakes.

 If Whaley's version of the accident were true, it would by necessary implication place the collision well into the northern or westbound side of the highway, because when the left front wheel of the mail truck struck the right front wheel of the Buick the front of the mail truck was more than half way across the highway, according to Whaley's testimony. If the collision occurred on the northern or westbound side of the highway, Hudgins would have to have been driving on the wrong side of the highway (that is, eastwardly on the westbound side). But nowhere in his testimony has Whaley stated or even attempted to imply that Hudgins was driving on the wrong side of the highway immediately preceding the accident. Indeed, in one portion of his testimony Whaley states that the collision occurred about the middle of the highway (N.T. 74) and not well into the northern or westbound side as his detailed account of the accident would imply (N.T. 72-73). Furthermore, counsel for the Government has never contended that Hudgins was driving on the wrong side of the highway.

 After the collision plaintiff became unconscious. He was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital where he quickly regained consciousness, remained for about six hours, and was treated for the injuries he sustained in the accident.

 He had a puncture wound in his tongue which required four sutures. His chest was strapped for fractures of the second and fourth right ribs. He had minor cuts on the left leg below the knee, on the right wrist, and over the right eye and a slight bruise on the left forehead. Merthiolate was applied to the cuts and bruises.

 For about six weeks Hudgins visited the hospital twice a week as an out-patient to have his strappings changed and to have two sutures removed from his tongue after four weeks and the remaining two removed ten days thereafter.

 After the sutures were removed plaintiff was tongue-tied for about three or four months, at the end of which time he had completely recovered his normal speaking ability.

 At the time of the accident plaintiff was on temporary furlough from his automobile assembly job at the Budd Company. He was recalled to work on December 1, 1948, but was unable to return because of his injuries. He attempted to resume work on January 11, 1949, but was able to do the heavy press shop work, to which he was then assigned, for only about 3 hours. He finally returned to work on February 2, 1949. Since that time he has been doing either assembly work or laborer's work depending on the employment situation. Whenever he has been laid off from assembly work because of a cutback in employment and his low seniority status, he has voluntarily by-passed press shop work, which is the classification between assembly work and laborer's work, claiming that press shop work is too heavy and strenuous for him. If press shop work is too heavy for him, his inability to handle it is not attributable to any disability resulting from the accident.

 Plaintiff's only evidence in support of his claim for permanent injuries is a small lump on his chest which he exhibited to the Court. He called no doctors to the stand to testify in his behalf with reference to his alleged permanent injuries. His own testimony in regard to his inability to do press shop work is not convincing. I find that plaintiff has sustained no permanent disability as a result of the accident and that therefore he is not entitled to an award for future loss of earnings.

 However, plaintiff is entitled to reimbursement for his loss of wages from December 1, 1948, to February 2, 1949, a period of nine weeks at ...


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