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CRISMAN v. SOUTHWEST CENTRAL RURAL ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE CORPORATION (11/24/59)

November 24, 1959

CRISMAN
v.
SOUTHWEST CENTRAL RURAL ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE CORPORATION, APPELLANT.



Appeal, No. 100, March T., 1959, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Indiana County, Dec. T., 1957, No. 53, in case of Sterle M. Crisman et al. v. Southwest Central Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation. Judgment affirmed. Trespass for property damage. Before CLARK, P.J. Verdict for plaintiffs in total amount of $9,253.33; defendant's motions for judgment n.o.v. and for new trial denied and judgment entered on the verdict. Defendant appealed.

COUNSEL

Joseph W. Serene, with him Peelor, Serene & Fee, for appellant.

James W. Mack, Jr., with him James G. Moore, for appellees.

Before Jones, C.j., Bell, Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Bok and Mcbride, JJ.

Author: Musmanno

[ 397 Pa. Page 416]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE MUSMANNO

Sterle M. Crisman and Loretta M. Crisman, his wife, were the owners of a house in White Township, Indiana County, which perished by fire on February 23, 1957. Personal property belonging to Mr. and Mrs. Crisman and Keith M. Crisman was also destroyed in the conflagration.

The property owners sued the Southwest Central Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation, which supplied electric power to the Crisman property, averring that the fire was caused because a defective transformer suspended from a pole 228 feet from the house, propelled excessive current into the dwelling. The defendant denied liability. The jury returned verdicts in favor of all the plaintiffs, and the defendant appealed.

The plaintiff Sterle M. Crisman testified that on several occasions prior to the day of the fire he heard unusual noises issuing from the transformer and that at times balls of flame shot from the transformer into the ground. He and his wife reported these strange happenings to the defendant company. Mr. Crisman testified that he also told company linemen about the antics of the transformer but that the linemen shrugged off the reports by remarking that the pyrotechnics were probably caused by birds perching on the wires. At no time did the company send anyone to examine the transformer or make any investigation.

On the night of February 23, 1957, while watching television, Crisman fell asleep and later was awakened by the smell of smoke and the sensation of excessive heat. The television had ceased functioning and all lights were extinguished. He opened the door leading into the cellar and fell back before sparks, smoke and flame emanating from the fuse box in a corner of the

[ 397 Pa. Page 417]

    basement. He described what he saw: "It just put you in mind of whenever they shoot these rockets in the air on the Fourth of July, you know, that is the way it was coming out."

The plaintiffs called an electrical engineer, L. W. Householder, an expert witness, for an opinion on the cause of the fire. Plaintiffs' counsel put to him a hypothetical question which contained, inter alia, the following: "Assuming ... that on at least three occasions within six months prior to the date in question here the transformer had been observed and reported to the Company as cracking, throwing fire balls, assuming further that there had been no trouble or difficulty whatever with the house electric current or appliances in the house prior to the date in question, assuming that at a certain time on this certain date the fuse box in the basement of this house was observed to be arcing, or throwing fire, assuming there was no other visible fire in the house, assuming the house was burned ...


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