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ULMER v. HAMILTON (01/03/56)

January 3, 1956

ULMER
v.
HAMILTON, APPELLANT.



Appeal, No. 285, Jan. T., 1955, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas No. 3 of Philadelphia County, March T., 1953, No. 6202, in case of William J. Ulmer v. George E. Hamilton. Judgment affirmed.

COUNSEL

Thomas Raeburn White, Jr., with him White, Williams & Scott, for appellant.

Lynn L. Detweiler, with him Swartz, Campbell & Henry, for appellee.

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

Author: Musmanno

[ 383 Pa. Page 399]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE MUSMANNO

In the early morning of January 15, 1953, William J. Ulmer, 62 years of age, plaintiff in this case, was crossing the Red Lion Road, Bustleton, in order to reach the Budd Company plant, in which he was employed, when he was struck by an automobile owned and operated by the defendant George E. Hamilton, against whom a jury in the ensuing lawsuit returned a verdict of $10,000. Upon being refused judgment n.o.v. in the Court below, the defendant appealed here, urging reversal on the ground that the plaintiff was guilty of contributory negligence.

The E. G. Budd Company plant is a large manufacturing establishment, faced on the other side of Red Lion Road, on which it borders, by a large parking lot which accommodates the cars of its employes. In view of the fact that no trolley or bus lines come to this point, practically every employe has to make use of an automobile in going to and from work. On the morning of the accident there were, in the immediate vicinity of the plant, as many as 300 cars headed for parking facilities.

Since the nearest crossway over the highway is at Pine Street, about four blocks distant from the Center Gate of the factory, the employes arriving in cars usually cross on foot from the parking lot to the entrance by traversing the Red Lion Road in a diagonal route. This fact was known to the travelling public generally and to the defendant particularly. While this generalized

[ 383 Pa. Page 400]

    custom could not of itself stamp the practice with all the privileges attendant upon crossing at a regular intersection, some latitude had to be allowed pedestrians because of geographical necessities which could not be ignored. To require workers hurrying to beat a time clock to proceed four blocks to Pine Street and then back four blocks to the work gate might have well created a situation which in itself would have been conductive to accident. In the case of Eckert v. Merchants Shipbuilding Corporation, 283 Pa. 340, the plaintiff was injured while crossing a public street which divided two parts of a large manufacturing plant. It was developed at the trial that the defendant knew that the employees used the street as a crossing. In affirming the verdict recovered in that case, this Court said: "Under the circumstances and considering the customary and large use of the way, the driver was bound to observe the same degree of care as would be required at an ordinary street crossing, and to either stop, when he saw the stationary team, or have his car under such control as he passed it, that he could have stopped it on the shortest possible notice, or otherwise have safeguarded plaintiff in the highway in front of him: [citing cases]. Appellant contends that plaintiff was contributorily negligent. This could not be so, as he had the right to cross the street where he did and when he did and to rely on the driver of the automobile not running him down. While it is set up that he suddenly stepped into the highway in front of the car, the weight of the evidence was to the contrary."

It is also claimed by the defendant in the case at bar that the plaintiff stepped in front of his car, but the weight of the evidence is to the contrary. Observing the rule that in appraising testimony we must read it in the light most favorable to the ...


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