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ECKMAN v. BETHLEHEM STEEL COMPANY (12/29/56)

December 29, 1956

ECKMAN
v.
BETHLEHEM STEEL COMPANY, APPELLANT.



Appeal, No. 231, Jan. T., 1956, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas No. 4 of Philadelphia County, June T., 1953, No. 7354, in case of Bruce P. Eckman v. Bethlehem Steel Company et al. Judgment affirmed. Trespass for personal injuries. Before LEWIS, P.J. Verdict for plaintiff in the sum of $10,000 and judgment entered thereon. Defendant appealed.

COUNSEL

Ralph S. Croskey, with him Croskey & Edwards, for appellant.

Samuel Polsky, with him Thomas Z. Minehart, Melvin Alan Bank, and Wilderman & Markowitz, for appellee.

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

Author: Arnold

[ 387 Pa. Page 438]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE ARNOLD

In this action of trespass, defendant, Bethlehem Steel Company, appeals from the refusal of its motions for new trial and judgment n.o.v. Defendant contends that the court erred in applying the exclusive control doctrine to the case; that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent; and that the verdict was excessive. The sole evidence in the case was produced by plaintiff, and on this appeal must be taken most favorably to him.

Plaintiff was working for his employer on defendant's premises under a contract between his employer and defendant. He had been engaged for several days in the installation of safety, or pop-off, valves on a "live" steam line in defendant's boiler room. This line extended across the boiler room at a height of 10 feet from the floor, and paralleling it was an exhaust line 2 feet above it. The two lines were connected by four "escape" lines, each of which was equipped with a gate valve and also a pop-off valve. The pop-off valves were so set that steam would be released when steam pressure reached a fixed point.

All of the gate valves were manually operated, and could not be opened accidentally. When closed, these gate valves completely closed off the escape lines. The

[ 387 Pa. Page 439]

    pop-off valves, on the other hand, operated automatically through the steam pressure.

Control of the steam generating plant, operated around the clock, was solely indefendant and its employes, who were cognizant of the work being done by plaintiff. At least two of defendant's employes were in the boiler room during the time the work was in progress. Plaintiff had no authority to, nor did he, open or close valves in the steam line or escape line, this resting solely in defendant's employes.

When the other three, of the four, pop-off valves were installed by plaintiff, the gate valves had been closed. At the commencement of work on the day in question, plaintiff's foreman had told him it was safe to work; and it was shown to be usual procedure for the foreman to receive ...


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