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JOHNSON v. PEOPLES CAB COMPANY. (11/13/56)

November 13, 1956

JOHNSON, APPELLANT,
v.
PEOPLES CAB COMPANY.



Appeals, Nos. 167 and 170, March T., 1956, and Nos. 166, 168, 169, 171, March T., 1956, from order of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Oct. T., 1952, No. 3306, and No. 3173, July T., 1953, in case of Agnes P. Jennings Johnson v. Peoples Cab Company; Same v. Ralph C. Cuda. Order affirmed. Actions of trespass for personal injuries and property damage. Before MARSHALL, J. Verdicts for plaintiffs A. J. Johnson in the sum of $3000, Rose Cuda in the sum of $7500, F. Cuda in the sum of $1000, and for Ralph Cuda in the sum of $890, and against defendant cab company; verdict for Ralph Cuda as joint and additional defendant; motion of defendant cab company for new trial granted, before MARSHALL, SMART and WEISS, JJ., opinion by MARSHALL, J. Plaintiffs and additional defendant, respectively, appealed.

COUNSEL

Gustav M. Berg, with him Warren S. Reding, Norman P. Wolken and Samuel Avins, for appellants.

Harland I. Casteel, with him Campbell, Houck & Thomas, for appellees.

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

Author: Musmanno

[ 386 Pa. Page 514]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE MUSMANNO

The primary object of a trial in our American courts is to bring to the tribunal, which is passing on the dispute involved, those persons who know of their own

[ 386 Pa. Page 515]

    knowledge the facts to which they testify. If it were not for this absolute sine qua non, trials could be conducted on paper without the presence of a single flesh and blood witness. However, with such a pen-and-ink procedure, there would be no opportunity to check on testimonial defects such as fallacious memory, limited observation, purposeful distortions, and outright fabrication. The great engine of cross-examination would lie unused while error and perjury would travel untrammeledly to an unreliable and often-tainted judgment. Accordingly, nothing is more adamantly established in our trial procedure than that no one may testify to what somebody else told him. He may only relate what is within the sphere of his own memory brought to him by the couriers of his own senses. While, of course, there are many so-called exceptions to this rule against hearsay, it will be noted upon analysis that they are actually not exceptions. In nearly every instance where the statement of others is allowed, the alleged hearsay is in itself a matter of original impression.

In the case at bar, the Court below permitted in evidence a police report of the accident which was the subject matter of the litigation. The report carried a sketch headed: SHOW HOW ACCIDENT HAPPENED. The police officer who drew the sketch, Thomas Sauers, did not arrive at the scene of the mishap until 5 or 10 minutes after it happened. Obviously he could not know of his own personal knowledge where the collision had occurred. He did not know whether the cars had been moved after the impact. He testified: "Q. Were those cars moved from the time of the collision until you arrived? A. Not that I know of. Q. Well, do you know? A. I do not know for a fact, no, I don't know." Thus, the diagram which definitively portrayed the

[ 386 Pa. Page 516]

    point at which the cars collided, was either drawn from information obtained from others or was entirely speculative. In either event it could not constitute reliable evidence.

On the reverse side of the report, there appeared the following notation: "Operator of Vehicle No. 2 ...


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