The opinion of the court was delivered by: DUSEN
This case is before the court on third-party defendant's post-trial motions to set aside the verdict and enter judgment for such defendant (Document No. 41) and for a new trial and judgment n.o.v. (Document No. 42) after a jury returned a verdict for third-party plaintiff in the trial of the third-party action only.
For brevity, the parties will be referred to here as plaintiff and defendant, rather than third-party plaintiff and third-party defendant.
The following summary of the testimony taken from pages 2 and 3 of defendant's brief is substantially complete, in view of the requirement that the version most favorable to the jury's verdict is applicable:
'On May 24, 1957, at or about 7:00 p.m., the third-party defendant, hereinafter referred to as the defendant, was operating his motor vehicle in a westerly direction on the Industrial Highway, east of its intersection with 70th Street, in the far right hand, or northernmost lane. (N.T. 95.) At that time, the third-party plaintiff, hereinafter referred to as the plaintiff, was operating a City of Philadelphia trash truck in a southerly direction on 70th Street, north of its intersection with the Industrial Highway. (N.T. 36, 37.)
'Mr. William Alston, the City driver, testified that he was proceeding south on 70th Street at about 25 miles per hour. (N.T. 38.) He further testified that he brought his vehicle to a stop at the edge of the concrete portion of the Industrial Highway in obedience to a stop sign which was located some distance north of the intersection of 70th Street and the Industrial Highway, with the front end of his truck extending about two feet into the Industrial Highway (N.T. 38.) At this time, Mr. Alston said he observed the defendant's vehicle approximately 100 feet away, coming west on the Industrial Highway at about 50 or 60 miles per hour.
'Mr. London testified on cross-examination that he was proceeding west on the Industrial Highway at about 35 to 40 miles per hour; that when he was 100 feet from the intersection he slowed down to a speed of 25 miles per hour, and that when he was 50 feet from the intersection, he jammed on his brakes (N.T. 104 & 105) because at this time the plaintiff's vehicle was already on the concrete portion of the Industrial Highway (N.T. 106).'
The pictures show that the vehicles collided with great force (Exhibits P-7 to P-10). The Accident Investigation Officer testified that, in view of the damage to the truck, defendant's car must have been going between 40 and 60 miles per hour. There were almost no obstructions or improvements on the land between the two roads (see Exhibits P-2 to P-5 and D-2 to D-7), so that each driver had an unobstructed view of the other approaching the intersection.
I. Contention that Mr. London is entitled to the entry of judgment in his favor as a matter of law.
Under the facts recited above, the jury was justified in finding that Mr. London was driving at an excessive speed as he approached the intersection, particularly in view of his admitted ability to see an approaching truck on the intersecting street. The requirement that any negligence the jury might find must also be a proximate cause of the collision was explained in the charge (N.T. 176 and 184-6).
The trial judge was required to submit this case to the jury as far as the defendant was concerned (cf. N.T. 214).
II. Contention that Mr. London is entitled to a new trial.
The jury withdrew from the court room after the charge at 10:51 A.M. (N.T. 194) and returned to the court room with the following message at 3:50 P.M.: 'The members of the jury can't seem to come to any agreement' (N.T. 200 and Exhibit C).
The trial judge supplemented the charge and sent the jury out again to deliberate at 3:56 P.M. (N.T. 197). The jury returned with its verdict for the plaintiff at 4:15 P.M. (N.T. 201).
Defendant objects to the trial judge's language in the supplemental charge, urging the jury to try to reach agreement, in these, among other, respects:
1. Language urging minority to consider position of majority.
The charge contains this language at N.T. 195:
'* * * if the majority feels one way about the case, those who are in the minority ought to consider whether they are so sure of their position. Even in a criminal case the United States Supreme Court has said that where the majority feels one way those who find themselves in the minority should re-examine the reasons for their position, and if after stating them they cannot persuade the majority, they ought to consider whether other people of good ...