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HOLTON v. GIBSON (12/01/60)

December 1, 1960


Appeal, No. 156, March T., 1960, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Crawford County, Nov. T., 1956, No. 62, in case of Chauncey C. Holton et al. v. William Gibson. Judgment affirmed.


Stuart A. Culbertson, with him Paul E. Allen, for appellant.

F. Joseph Thomas, for appellees.

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

Author: Eagen

[ 402 Pa. Page 39]


This appeal is from the entry of judgment after the refusal of the court below to grant defendant's motions for a new trial and for judgment non obstante veredicto in an action of trespass wherein the jury returned a verdict of $2,416.75 in favor of plaintiffs. Appellees are husband and wife, the former alone having sustained personal injury and the latter joined solely because of her rights of partial ownership in the damaged vehicle involved.

At approximately eight o'clock in the evening of October 22, 1954, the husband-plaintiff and the defendant were driving automobiles eastwardly and westwardly, respectively, along Smock Memorial Highway (U.S. Route 322) in Vernon Township, Crawford County, Pennsylvania. Route 322 at its intersection with Mercer Pike is a straight, four-lane, slightly graded highway and thoroughfare, the eastbound and westbound lanes of which are separated by a concrete medial strip approximately two feet in width. Weather conditions then prevailing were good; the road was dry and the night, though dark, was clear. At the time in question, Route 322 was uncontrolled at this junction by the traffic signals appearing there at the time of trial. Mercer Pike, however, was governed by stop signs at this intersection.

According to his testimony, Mr. Holton, hereinafter referred to as appellee, then 57 years of age, approached

[ 402 Pa. Page 40]

    the intersection in the northernmost of the eastbound lanes, adjacent to and immediately south of the aforementioned medial strip. He applied his automatic turn signals to indicate an intended left turn to the north and stopped his automobile just west of the end of the medial strip to his left. He had clear vision of over 1000 feet eastward. Before commencing to execute the turn, he waited until two westbound vehicles had cleared the intersection, after which time and while seeing the headlights of defendant's car some 600 to 800 feet east of the crossing, he entered the southernmost of the westbound lanes at a speed of three to five miles per hour in low gear. When his car reached the approximate center of the westbound lanes and was astraddle their division line, he looked to his right and then observed defendant's car some two hundred feet east of the intersection approaching at what he described as an increased speed. The collision occurred immediately after the front end of his car had passed the line at which Mercer Pike meets Route 322. The left front section of defendant's car and the right front portion of appellee's automobile had come into violent contact. According to the defendant's testimony, as he approached the intersection three cars were travelling in the opposite direction in the eastbound lanes. When defendant was within one hundred feet of the intersection, one of these cars suddenly and without warning departed from its lane of traffic and made a "sweeping" left turn, swinging across the highway into the pathway of his automobile. He testified that he ceased accelerating at a point approximately one hundred feet east of the intersection and that, when about twenty-five feet from it, he applied his brakes. In this connection, he testified on cross-examination rather significantly as follows: "Q. The only reason you made no attempt to stop

[ 402 Pa. Page 41]

    until you reached the point twenty-five feet from the intersection was because you didn't think it was up to you to do it, is that right? A. THAT'S RIGHT. It's a through highway." In an effort to avoid collision, defendant swerved to his right. He had at all times been in the northernmost of the two westbound lanes. Appellant fixed at from forty to forty-five miles per hour the speed at which he had been travelling before becoming aware of appellee's intent to turn north. Behind him, but separated by the vehicle of an unknown motorist, was the automobile of one Mr. Britton who, when called, testified that he had been proceeding at approximately forty to forty-five miles per hour and that the distances between the three cars seemed to remain constant. Appellant's insistence that this testimony is corroborative of his own speed is somewhat impaired by the following testimony of Britton, given on cross-examination: "Q. And you weren't paying any attention to the speed of the lead (Gibson) car at the time that you saw the lights of this (appellee's) ...

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