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HORSHAM FIRE COMPANY v. FORT WASHINGTON FIRE COMPANY (01/03/56)

January 3, 1956

HORSHAM FIRE COMPANY
v.
FORT WASHINGTON FIRE COMPANY, APPELLANT.



Appeal, No. 170, Jan. T., 1955, from order of Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, June T., 1952, No. 433, in case of Horsham Fire Company No. 1 v. Fort Washington Fire Company No. 1. Order affirmed.

COUNSEL

Victor J. Roberts, with him High, Swartz, Childs & Roberts, for appellant.

Cassin W. Craig, with him William W. Vogel and Wisler, Pearlstine, Talone & Gerber, for appellee.

Before Stearne, Jones, Bell, Musmanno and Arnold, JJ.

Author: Musmanno

[ 383 Pa. Page 405]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE MUSMANNO

This case is unique in that it has to do with two fire companies which responded to an alarm to fight the common enemy and ended up by fighting each other. On October, 9, 1951, the fire truck of the Horsham Fire Company collided with the fire truck of the Fort Washington Fire Company at the intersection of Welsh Road and Butler Pike in Montgomery County. The Horsham Fire Company sued the Fort Washington Fire Company in trespass and recovered a verdict of $10,331. The defendant moved for judgment n.o.v. and a new trial. The Court below refused judgment n.o.v. and granted a new trial. The plaintiff did not appeal from the order ordering the new trial. The defendant appealed urging the entering of judgment n.o.v.

Under the well recognized rule that in considering judgment n.o.v. the testimony must be read in the light most favorable to the verdict winner, we agree with the Court below that the jury was justified in finding for

[ 383 Pa. Page 406]

    the plaintiff fire company and that the facts would not warrant judgment n.o.v.

It is to be observed at the outset that the owners of emergency vehicles such as ambulances, police wagons and fire department vehicles, despite privileges allowed them under The Vehicle Code, are responsible in damages for reckless disregard of the rights of others. Roadman v. Bellone, 379 Pa. 483; Wolfe v. Pittsburgh, 373 Pa. 626; Mansfield v. Philadelphia, 352 Pa. 199; LaMarra v. Adam, 164 Pa. Superior Ct. 268; Oakley v. Allegheny County, 128 Pa. Superior Ct. 8.

In the case at bar the driver of the defendant Fort Washington fire truck drove through a Stop sign on Butler Pike at a speed of from 55 to 60 miles per hour into an intersection which he knew to be a dangerous one, aware that drivers approaching from his right on Welsh Road could not see him because of a field of standing corn, as indeed it also shut off his vision of traffic coming from the east on that thoroughfare. It became a question for the jury to determine whether this conduct did not constitute a reckless disregard of the rights of others on the highway, even though the defendant truck was responding to a fire alarm and even though it had certain privileges under The Vehicle Code.

The driver of the plaintiff Horsham fire truck, although also entitled to the same privileges enjoyed by the Ft. Washington fire truck, was circumspect in his approach to the perilous intersection. While not ignoring the demands for reasonable dispatch in the fulfillment of his appointed mission to reach the conflagration to which his fire company had been summoned, he adjusted his movement to the circumstances which confronted him. Taking heed of a bus which ...


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