Appeals, Nos. 268 and 269, Jan. T., 1960, from judgments of Court of Common Pleas No. 3 of Philadelphia County, March T., 1957, No. 3543, in case of Emanuel Lederhandler et ux. v. Harry Bolotini, doing business as Bolotini's Catering Service. Judgments affirmed.
Ralph S. Croskey, for appellant.
James R. Cavanaugh, with him Charles A. Lord, and Richter, Lord & Levy, for appellee.
Before Jones, C.j., Bell, Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Bok and Eagen, JJ.
OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE MUSMANNO.
Mrs. Yetta Lederhandler slipped on an apple strudel, fell and broke her hip. She and her husband sued Harry Bolotini, doing business as Bolotini's Catering Service, charging him with negligence in the manner he managed the dinner and reception where the accident occurred. The plaintiffs recovered a substantial verdict. The defendant moved for judgment n.o.v. and a new trial. The motions were refused, and from the judgment entered on the verdicts, the defendant appealed.
Reviewing the evidence in the most favorable light for the verdict winners, the following narrative emerges. On the evening of December 8, 1956, Yetta Lederhandler and her husband attended a dinner at the Overbrook Park Congregation Hall, 76th and Woodbine Avenue, Philadelphia, in honor of a Bar Mitzvah which had been celebrated that morning. The auditorium in which the dinner was served was laid with linoleum over a cement floor. At about 8 p.m., the guests, numbering some 200, sat down at tables accommodating from 4 to 12 persons each. For two hours the guests dined, the menu being ample and diversified enough to satisfy almost any appetite, namely, mixed fruit cocktail, olives, celery, nuts, mushrooms in patty shell, different kinds of fish, chopped liver, soup, roast turkey, cranberry sauce, a couple of vegetables, and hot apple strudel, topped off with baked alaska and demitasse. The food was carried to the tables by the waiters employed by the defendant catering firm.
At 10 p.m., the meal ended and some of the tables were moved to make room for dancing. During the dinner, fragments of food and trickles of beverage had spilled to the floor without any of the caterer's staff making any apparent effort to pick up or sweep away the liquids and articles underfoot.
Harry Schur, one of the guests, noticed on the floor "a spot of wetness and debris," and he warned one of the waiters: "You better clear this up before an accident happens or someone slips." Helen Winokur, another guest, testified that after the dinner the floor was "pretty sloppy." The plaintiff testified that she saw food, water, and "some vegetables on the floor."
At about 11 p.m., Mrs. Lederhandler noticed a "puddle of water" located about 3 1/2 feet from the chair on which she was sitting next to her mother. By midnight this water had spread, and it was now touching the toes of her shoes. Seeking to avoid the mobile puddle, Mrs. Lederhandle thrust her feet under her chair, pushed backwards and stood up. As she did so, her feet came into contact with "something hard and slimy like," she slipped, fell heavily, and fractured bones which necessitated her being hospitalized and operated on.
One of the men who went to Mrs. Lederhandler's assistance after she fell observed a piece of mashed strudel at her feet. We are indebted to the learned trial judge in the court below for a definition of strudel. He describes it as a "delicacy made from pastry dough, apples and raisins." After it has fallen from a certain height to the floor, is stepped upon, and churned over, it ceases to be a delicacy and turns into a potential menace for pedestrians ...