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O'CONNELL v. ROEFARO (ET AL. (01/06/58)

January 6, 1958

O'CONNELL
v.
ROEFARO (ET AL., APPELLANT).



Appeals, Nos. 234, 235, 236, March T., 1957, from judgments of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Oct. T., 1953, No. 2359, in cases of Nora J. O'Connell, administratrix of the estate of David John O'Connell, deceased v. Thomas A. Roefaro et al. Judgments affirmed.

COUNSEL

William A. Challener, Jr., for appellant.

George S. Goldstein, with him John B. Flaherty, John R. Dierst, Jr., and Robert E. Wayman, for appellees.

J. Lawrence McBride, with him Dickie, McCamey, Chilcote & Robinson, for appellee.

Before Jones, C.j., Bell, Chidsey, Musmanno, Jones and Cohen, JJ.

Author: Musmanno

[ 391 Pa. Page 54]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE MUSMANNO

John Zahorchak, 39 years of age And David John O'Connell, 29, ironworkers, wre engaged in loading steel for a crane when they were both hit by a high voltage current of electricity which hurled them from 10 to 18 feet with disastrous results: O'Connell was killed outrightly, Zahorchak was severely burned in various parts of his body.

The tragedy came about as follows. Thomas A. Roefaro owned and operated grocery store and meat market at the corner of Broad Street and Millvale Avenue in the City of Pittsburgh. In common with practically every grocery store owner in the county he dreamed of building a supermarket and set about to accomplish this desideratum. He had plans and specifications

[ 391 Pa. Page 55]

    prepared for a one-story steel and brick structure to be added to his current frame building, and he hired a Herbert Flaherty to superintend the construction. For the erection of the steel framework, he contracted with the R. J. Dickey Company which brought five men to the job, among whom were Zahorchak and O'Connell.

In order to lift the steel beams and joists, which had arrived by truck, into position the services of a crane were required. R. J. Dickey ordered from the John W. Brown Equipment Rental Corporation, which is in the crane-renting business, a crane adapted to the physical properties at the Roefaro location. High tension wires passed over the newly erected 12 foot-high was which was to become one side of the proposed supermarket, and it was necessary that the crane be of that size and type which would keep its boom free of the highly charged electric cables. Whether the crane which finally arrived was the type ordered is not clear, but it apparently was adequate for the required operation since it had lifted from the ground and swung into space practically the entire quantity of steel beams and joists when the accident occurred. At any rate, since the steel ready to be lifted was on the opposite side of the wall from the crane, which was stationed on Broad Street, and since the operator could not see over or through the wall, it was necessary for someone to signal to him when the loads were ready for lifting. The job foreman of the Dickey Company designated a Michael Volpe to do this. Velpe stood on the roof of the old building and thus could see both the load to be lifted and the crane. When the workmen attached their loads to the lead lines hanging from the boom extending over the top of the wall, he would signal the operator who would then operate the necessary lever to lift the load to the top of the new wall where other

[ 391 Pa. Page 56]

    workmen would swing the beams and joists into place for eventual riveting and formation of the new steel roof.

Throughout the entire process until the last load was prepared for lifting the crane operator kept the crane's boom at a level about six feet below the wires. When, however, the final bundle of steel had been hooked on to the lead lines and Volpe indicated by hand signal that all was in readiness, the operator pulled a lever which sent the boom soaring against the tension wires which discharged their deadly content into the lead lines, visiting upon O'Connell the catastrophe and upon Zahorchak the injuries already described.

The administratrix of the estate of O'Connell brought death and survival actions against Thos. A. Roefaro and the Brown Equipment Rental Corporation. Zahorchak filed suit for personal injuries against the same parties. The Brown Company brought in the Dickey Company as an additional defendant. The actions were consolidated for trial and the jury returned verdicts in ...


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