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WATSON v. PITTSBURGH RAILWAYS COMPANY (06/11/57)

June 11, 1957

WATSON
v.
PITTSBURGH RAILWAYS COMPANY, APPELLANT.



Appeals, Nos. 14 and 15, April T., 1957, from judgments of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, April T., 1953, No. 1674, in case of Marie H. Watson and William C. Watson v. Pittsburgh Railways Company. Judgments affirmed.

COUNSEL

Con F. McGregor, for appellant.

Lee L. Leonard, for appellees.

Before Rhodes, P.j., Hirt, Gunther, Wright, Woodside, Ervin, and Watkins, JJ.

Author: Watkins

[ 183 Pa. Super. Page 474]

OPINION BY WATKINS, J.

This case involved an action of trespass brought by Marie Watson and her husband for injuries sustained by the wife, while a passenger on one of defendant's street cars. The defendant has appealed from a refusal by the lower court of its motion for judgment non obstante veredicto. The plaintiff was travelling with her three year old granddaughter, on defendant's street car, on August 6, 1952. The plaintiff had travelled this way many times and was familiar with the route of the car. She and her granddaughter were seated on the right-hand lengthwise seat in the front of the car. The car was travelling along a straightaway, on a downward grade, into a right-hand curve. The plaintiff testified that the car was travelling 25 to 35 miles per hour. Because of the speed, she had braced herself in her seat and braced her feet on the floor and extended her arm across her grandchild to protect her. As the car rounded the curve she was thrown out of her seat and unto the floor sustaining injuries. A woman passenger, sitting next to her, was thrown forward out of her seat and prevented herself from falling by grasping a vertical pole.

The general rule involving sudden movement in trolley cases is now established in a long line of cases. In Hill v. West Penn Railways Co., 340 Pa. 297, 298, 16 A.2d 527 (1940) the Court said, "We are bound to conclude, as did the court below, that appellant's proof did not measure up to the standard required to sustain

[ 183 Pa. Super. Page 475]

    a charge of negligence in cases of this character. As we said in the recent case of Staller v. Philadelphia Rapid Transit Co., 339 Pa. 100, 103: 'It is well established by a long line of decisions that testimony indicating that a moving trolley jerked suddenly or violently is not sufficient, of itself, to establish negligence in its operation. There must be a showing of additional facts and circumstances from which it clearly appears that the movement of the car was so unusual and extraordinary as to be beyond a passenger's reasonable anticipation, and nothing short of evidence that the allegedly unusual movement had an extraordinarily disturbing effect upon other passengers, or evidence of an accident, the manner of the occurrence of which or the effect of which upon the injured person inherently establishes the unusual character of the jolt or jerk, will suffice'. In applying the rule, this Court and the Superior Court have repeatedly held that, since it is not unusual for persons to lose their balance while standing or walking in a moving trolley car if an ordinary or moderate jerk occurs, such as is necessarily incidental to the ordinary and customary operation of such cars, a fall occasioned under circumstances like those here presented is not so violent and unusual in character as to permit a jury to predicate on it alone a finding that the jerk was extraordinary and unusual and therefore the result of negligent operation. See Harkins v. P.R.T. Co., 286 Pa. 465; Smith v. Pittsburgh Railways Co., 314 Pa. 541; Staller v. P.R.T. Co., supra; Zeiger v. P.R.T. Co., 84 Pa. Superior Ct. 541; Iszard v. P.R.T. Co., 100 Pa. Superior Ct. 240; McClusky v. Shenango Val. Trac. Co., 105 Pa. Superior Ct. 275."

The reason for the proof of "unusual and extraordinary" movement of a street car, "not reasonably to be anticipated" and requiring proof of extraordinary adverse

[ 183 Pa. Super. Page 476]

    effect on other passengers is well stated by Judge KENWORTHEY in Coyle v. Pittsburgh Railways Company, etc., 149 Pa. Superior Ct. 281, 283, 27 A.2d 533 (1942) where he said, "Every rider knows that to keep one's feet in a moving street car, whether it be stopping, starting, going around a curve or traversing a not quite straight portion of track, requires alertness and a certain regard for balance. And if every person thrown and injured in a street car could recover damages on proof merely that he was ...


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