Appeal, No. 234, March T., 1954, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Erie County, Feb. T., 1953, No. 113, in case of Central Greyhound Lines of New York v. Louis George, trading as Balkan Bakery, and The Western Express Company and Ivon C. Handrick. Judgment affirmed. Trespass for property damage. Before LAUB, J. Verdict for plaintiff against defendant Express Company and defendant Handrick; defendants' motions for judgment n.o.v. and for a new trial dismissed and judgments entered on verdicts for plaintiff. Defendants, Express Company and Handrick, appealed.
John G. Gent, with him Brooks, Curtze & Gent, for appellants.
William F. Illig, with him Gifford, Graham, MacDonald & Illig, and Adam A. Gorski, for appellee.
Before Stearne, Jones, Chidsey, Musmanno and Arnold, JJ.
OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE MUSMANNO
On January 5, 1952, U.S. Route 20 in the vicinity of Erie was covered with snow and ice to an extent which proclaimed careful and cautious driving to all motorists on the highway. At a point 11 miles east of Erie, a light Balkan Bakery truck and a passenger bus belonging to the Central Greyhound Lines of New York with 21 passengers aboard were moving westwardly, the truck preceding the bus by about 600 feet. On the same highway, a huge Western Express tractor-trailer was moving in the opposite direction, that is eastwardly. When the tractor-trailer and the bakery truck were about 125 feet away from one another the bakery truck lost traction and spun across the highway, striking with a glancing blow the tractor-trailer which continued unimpeded on its way. The driver of the passenger bus, witnessing the bakery truck spinning across the highway, slowed down, guided his bus to the right side completely off the highway and on to the berm and stopped within 200 feet. The Western Express tractor-trailer, continuing straight ahead after the collision with the bakery truck, now began to inch over to its left, diagonally crossed the highway and crashed into the stationary bus, inflicting on the bus considerable damage.
In the ensuing lawsuits and combined trial, the driver of the Western Express Company obtained a verdict against the Balkan Bakery for the comparatively slight damages sustained by the tractor-trailer. The jury also returned a verdict in favor of the Central Greyhound Lines against the Western Express Company and its driver, Ivon C. Handrick. The Western Express Company and Handrick, to be referred to in this Opinion as the defendant, moved for judgment n.o.v. and a new trial. The motions were refused and this appeal followed.
It is the contention of the defendant that since the jury has exonerated it of blame in the collision with the Balkan Bakery truck, it must also be cleared of fault in the collision with the passenger bus. The defendant's theory is that the double crash constituted only one accident and that the original fault of the Balkan Bakery carried through to, and was responsible for, also, the second crash. But contiguity of circumstances does not necessarily entail similarity of design. If motorist A strikes motorist B, this does not justify motorist B in striking motorist C if he can reasonably avoid striking motorist C.
Although only seconds apparently separated the Balkan-Western Express encounter from the Western Express-Greyhound bus crash, the two collisions were in point of physics, cause and effect, and liability as separable as if hours had divided them.*fn* When three automobiles become involved in two collisions, the line
of demarcation between the collisions is drawn at the point where the culpable force of the first collision has spent itself and a new train of ...