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WESHALEK v. WESHALEK (11/17/55)

November 17, 1955

WESHALEK
v.
WESHALEK, APPELLANT.



Appeals, Nos. 213, 214, 215, 216, 217, and 218, March T., 1955, from judgments of Court of Common Pleas of Butler County, Sept. T., 1952, No. 72, in case of Stephen A. Weshalek et al. v. Frank Weshalek et al. Judgments affirmed.

COUNSEL

J. Campbell Brandon, with him Hugh S. Millar, and Brandon, Millar, Rockenstein & MacFarlane, for appellant.

Samuel R. DiFrancesco, with him Kiester, Coulter & Gilchrist, for appellees.

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

Author: Musmanno

[ 383 Pa. Page 154]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE MUSMANNO

At the hour of 6:45 in the morning of July 25, 1953, a Packard automobile owned and operated by Mrs. Mildred Oravecz, and carrying six passengers, was proceeding eastwardly on Route 422, a three-lane highway, in the vicinity of Butler, Pennsylvania, when on the same highway a White trailer-truck, loaded with a twelve-ton cargo of wine and whiskey, followed by a huge Dodge convoy-carrier, was travelling westwardly. At a point about 3 miles west of Butler, the Dodge convoy-carrier moved from behind the White trailer-truck in order to pass it and, in doing so, entered into the center lane. While the convoy-carrier was still in the center lane and before it could complete the maneuver of passing the White trailer-truck, the Packard car appeared before it and the two vehicles collided head-on. The force of the impact pivoted the Packard and spun its rear end around into the path of the oncoming White trailer-truck which struck into it. In the instant the three vehicles intermeshed in calamitous violence and burst into flames, killing Mrs. Oravecz and two children, and seriously injuring five others.

Six suits were instituted for personal and property damages against the administrator of the estate of

[ 383 Pa. Page 155]

Mildred Oravecz and the owner and driver of the Dodge convoy-carrier. The suits were consolidated for trial and a combined verdict of $11,572.86 was returned in favor of the plaintiffs. An appeal was taken to this Court which ordered a new trial (see 379 Pa. 544.)

At the second trial the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff against the estate of Mildred Oravecz in the total sum $19,459.99. The owner and driver of the Dodge convoy-carrier were exonerated of liability. Frank Weshalek, administrator d.b.n. of the Estate of Mildred Oravecz, moved for judgment n.o.v. in the Court below and, with the denial of that motion, appealed to this Court.

He here asks for a reversal of the lower Court's decision on the ground that the evidence did not establish sole or any negligence on the part of the deceased Mildred Oravecz. Particularly he urges that since no witness testified to actually seeing the collision between the Packard and the convoy-carrier, there is to direct proof as to what occurred in order to precisely affix liability. But this Court has often held that in the absence of eyewitnesses to a controverted event, negligence may speak through the physical facts. Events do not discourse only through the tongue of man. The twisted fragments of wrecked cars, the heavy, strained tire-marks in the dust and dirt of the road, and the position of lifeless bodies on the highway frequently tell the story of a tragic accident with more convincing realism than witnesses whose memory may have been affected by the shock and excitement of the violent event as well as by human frailties which often chip at the edge of faithful recollection and leave something less than impeccable truth.

In the case of Tucker v. Pittsburgh Ry. Co., 227 Pa. 66, 69, this Court said: "Accidents in which life is lost not infrequently ...


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