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DARDIS v. CUDA (11/08/54)

November 8, 1954

DARDIS
v.
CUDA, APPELLANT.



Appeals, Nos. 272 and 273, March T., 1954, from judgments of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, July T., 1950, No. 144, in case of Ann Dardis et vir., v. Frances X. Cuda et vir. Judgments affirmed. Trespass for personal injuries. Before MARSHALL, J. Compulsory non-suit entered as to defendant C. Cuda; verdicts for plaintiff-wife in the sum of $6000, and for plaintiff-husband in the sum of $5000, and judgments entered thereon. Defendant F. Cuda appealed.

COUNSEL

Harold R. Schmidt, with him John L. Laubach, Jr., and Rose, Rose & Houston, for appellant.

P. J. McArdle, for appellee.

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

Author: Musmanno

[ 379 Pa. Page 270]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE MUSMANNO

With all the progress that has been made in science, invention and mechanical ingenuity, civilization has not yet achieved the mark of a driverless car. Hence the law assumes that if an automobile is seen dashing along a street with nobody behind the wheel, fault somewhere has sent the careening vehicle on its destructive journey.

On the afternoon of April 3, 1950, a Cadillac automobile in just such a condition with a terrorized and helpless passenger in it swept down Diamond Street in Pittsburgh, leaped the curb at the intersecting Smithfield Street, bounded over the pavement and crashed into a drug store, carrying before it the plaintiff

[ 379 Pa. Page 271]

Ann Dardis who had been waiting on the corner for a street car.

The driver of the car, Mrs. Frances X. Cuda, testified that she had stopped the car (a Cadillac) on Diamond Street, between Grant and Smithfield Streets, in order to allow her passengers, a sister and her mother, to get out so that they might enter Kaufman's Store for shopping, whereupon she had intended to proceed on down Diamond Street. She and her sister successfully descended from the car and were on the pavement but as Mrs. Anderson, the defendant's mother, prepared to leave the vehicle, the car began to move, it increased its momentum and finally terminated its disastrous journey at and into the drug store at the corner. (Other persons were injured in the same accident.)

Mrs. Cuda testified that she had turned the Cadillac's front wheels toward the curb, applied the brakes, turned off the ignition and put the engine into reverse gear. An expert witness called by the defendant stated on cross-examination that if the gear shift of a Cadillac automobile is in reverse, it cannot move forward. Thus, the case presented a simple question of fact for the jury to decide. Had the defendant exercised every due care in leaving, even momentarily, a car, in a heavily trafficked metropolitan area, on a street with a 4.87% descending grade?

The facts in the case of Helfrich v. Gurnari, 78 Pa. Superior Ct. 449, were somewhat analogous to those in the case at bar. There, the defendant parked his car on a street and entered an establishment where he remained three minutes. When he returned the car was gone. Driverless it had proceeded some 200 feet across a public square and had struck the plaintiff, pinning her ...


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