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JERDON v. SIRULNIK. (06/29/60)

June 29, 1960

JERDON, APPELLANT,
v.
SIRULNIK.



Appeals, Nos. 105 and 106, Jan. T., 1960, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, June T., 1958, No. 1809, in case of Mary Jerdon et al. v. Reuben H.Sirulnik et al. Judgment affirmed.

COUNSEL

William P. Thorn, with him Edward Rocap, for appellants.

John F. Cramp, with him George J. McConchie, for appellees.

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

Author: Cohen

[ 400 Pa. Page 424]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE COHEN.

These are appeals from a judgment entered by the court of common pleas in a negligence action after the court had directed a verdict for the defendants and denied plaintiffs' motion for a new trial. The circumstances of the accident are summarized by the court below as follows: "The wife-plaintiff had been a domestic employee in the defendants' home for six days when, in the course of her duties, she slipped and fell on some water at the foot of the basement stairs and was injured.... The defendants live in a split level house. The kitchen and laundry are on one floor, the recreation room is in the basement. Plaintiff, returning from another part of the house at about 11:30 a.m., observed water on the floor of the laundry and went to fetch a mop. She flicked on a light, descended the stairs to the recreation room, put both feet on the floor, slipped on some water on it, which she did not see, and fell.

"The recreation room is lighted by windows and three overhead lights and two standing lamps. The wife-plaintiff described the windows as high and not giving much light. Two of the overhead lights and the floor lamps could be switched on only in the basement. The other ceiling light was switched on by the plaintiff at the top of the stairs."

To make out a case of negligence a plaintiff must prove, inter alia, that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty which was breached. As to the duty that these defendants owed to the wife-plaintiff, the parties agree on the applicability of the rule expressed in Section 492 of the Restatement (2d), Agency: "A master is subject to a duty that care be used either to provide working conditions which are reasonably safe for his servants and subservants, considering the nature of the employment, or to warn them of risks of unsafe conditions which he should realize they may not discover

[ 400 Pa. Page 425]

    by the exercise of due care." Comment b of Section 492 provides that the master's duty applies not only to servants in industrial establishments but also to domestic servants.

The theory of plaintiffs is that the defendants were negligent in failing to provide sufficient light for the premises in which the wife-plaintiff performed her duties.

Considering, then, the nature of the wife-plaintiff's employment as a resident domestic, what evidence was adduced to show the lack of care by defendants in furnishing reasonably safe lighting conditions? What evidence was offered to prove either that the lighting equipment or the arrangement thereof was not "reasonably safe" for working purposes? As we review the record, there was none. Presented in the manner most favorable to plaintiffs, the evidence discloses that the light which the wife-plaintiff was able to switch on from the top of the stairs was located in the center of the recreation room but to the rear and left of persons descending the stairway, so that any direct illumination furnished by that light was blocked by the wife-plaintiff (as it would be by any person) as she descended the stairs. To some extent this light might also have been blocked by the riser in the stairs. Thus, either the wife-plaintiff descending or the riser or both created a shadow at the foot of the stairs thereby concealing ...


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