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SHERWOOD v. ELGART (06/27/55)

June 27, 1955

SHERWOOD
v.
ELGART, APPELLANT.



Appeals, Nos. 222 and 223, Jan. T., 1954, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas No. 4, June T., 1952, No. 2821; Nos. 224 and 225, from judgment of Court of Common Please No. 7, Sept. T., 1952, No. 5134; Nos. 226 and 227, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas No. 7, Dec. T., 1952, No. 3990; Nos. 228 and 229, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas No. 3, March T., 1953, No. 3186; and Nos. 272 and 273, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas No. 4, March T., 1953, No. 6643, in case of Florence Sherwood, Antionette Rosenberger, George Landis, Wuanita Smith and Alberta Porter v. Samuel Elgart, Clinton Management, Inc., etc. Judgments reversed; further reargument refused November 28, 1955.

COUNSEL

Earl G. Harrison, with him S. C. Nissenbaum, Herbert A. Barton, Lynn L. Detweiler, Swartz, Campbell & Henry, Nissenbaum & Maurer and Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, for appellants.

Abram P. Piwosky, Harvey Levin and Richard E. McDevitt, with them Piwosky & Levin, and Montgomery, McCracken, Walker & Rhoads, for appellees.

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

Author: Bell

[ 383 Pa. Page 111]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE BELL

These are appeals from final judgments entered on findings of the lower Court awarding compensatory and punitive damages to the five plaintiffs in varying amounts.

In the early morning of February 29, 1952 a fire destroyed the Clinton Hotel in Philadelphia. Plaintiffs, guests residing at the Hotel at the time of the fire, instituted these trespass actions to recover the

[ 383 Pa. Page 112]

    value of personal property located in their rooms and allegedly destroyed by the fire. The complaints charged various acts of negligence. The defendants, who were sued as owners and operators of the Hotel, denied liability.

The trial Judge, sitting without a jury, found, inter alia, that two of the defendants, namely, Samuel Elgart and Clinton Management, Inc., were negligent and that such negligence was the proximate cause of the fire; and concluded that the Act of June 12, 1913, P.L. 481, 37 PS ยง 61 et seq., did not preclude a recovery for such losses. Each defendant seeks a judgment non obstante veredicto.

The case turns on the interpretation of the Act of 1913. Under Section 1 an innkeeper who provides (specified) safe deposit facilities for the custody of money, bank notes, jewelry, articles of gold and silver manufacture, precious stones, personal ornaments, railroad mileage books or tickets, negotiable or valuable papers, and bullion, and posts copies of the section in ten conspicuous places in the hotel shall not be liable for the loss of such valuables unless the innkeeper has refused to accept them from the guests for safe deposit and to give a receipt therefor. The section also limits the innkeeper's liability for the enumerated classes of property to $300., even if he receives them for safekeeping.

Section 2 permits an innkeeper to make any special arrangements in writing with his guests covering any property received "for deposit in such safe or vault", but provides he may not relieve himself of liability for any loss of the above-enumerated articles where ...


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