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STEWART v. MOROW (05/02/61)

May 2, 1961

STEWART
v.
MOROW, APPELLANT.



Appeal, No. 35, March T., 1961, from judgments of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Jan. T., 1955, No. 2185, in case of Irene Stewart et al. v. Joseph Morow et al. Judgments reversed.

COUNSEL

Charles G. Notari, for appellants.

Gene K. Lynch, with him Leonard J. Paletta, and McArdle, Harrington & McLaughlin, for appellee.

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

Author: Jones

[ 403 Pa. Page 460]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE BENJAMIN R. JONES.

Plaintiff, Irene Stewart, was employed one day a week as a domestic worker in the Penn Township, Allegheny County, home of the defendants, Joseph and Marietta Morow, and had been so employed for at least six months prior to an accident which occurred on May 25, 1954. On that morning while in the performance of her household cleaning duties, Irene Stewart was injured when a mirror which had been resting on the mantelpiece in Morow's living room suddenly fell and struck her on the head, whereupon it broke and cut her right arm and hand. The jury verdicts were against the Morows, Irene Stewart being awarded $7,320, and her husband, Ray Stewart, $680. From judgments entered on such verdicts the Morows appeal seeking judgments non obstante veredicto or a new trial.

Morows were given this mirror (which was at one time a part of a vanity set) by a neighbor, Mrs. Pusateri, sometime between November 1953 and January 1954. The mirror is described as very thin and oval shaped except for the bottom portion thereof which was straight or level. Referred to as a large mirror, Irene Stewart testified that it was not very heavy, whereas Mr. Morow estimated its weight at twenty-five pounds.

[ 403 Pa. Page 461]

The Morows placed the mirror on a cement mantelpiece in their living room, behind an electric clock, with the straight or level portion resting on the mantel and the top oval part leaning against the flat surface of the wall. It was not secured or fastened to the wall in any other manner. The mirror had rested and remained in this position for about two or three weeks prior to the accident.

On the morning of the accident, Irene Stewart was cleaning about the living room. She had just picked up some candy wrappers from the fireplace and was rising from her bent-over position when she was suddenly struck, without warning, by the falling mirror. She testified that a week or so before the accident she had cleaned the wall behind the mirror, and at that time observed that the mirror was not fastened to the wall. She informed Mrs. Morow of this fact, stating that "somebody's going to get killed if that mirror falls." She had not, however, touched the mantelpiece or the mirror on the morning of the accident. Irene Stewart was the sole witness as to liability and this was the extent of her evidence.

We have here a case where there is merely proof of the fall of an object without any proof of what caused it to fall: Laing v. Remington Arms Co., 264 Pa. 130, 131, 107 A. 633. The only evidence of record even tending to show negligence is the fact that the mirror was not fastened or secured to the wall and that it fell. There is no evidence that the position of the mirror, i.e., leaning against the wall, made it unsafe or that it was insecure, nor is there any evidence that in that position the mirror was dangerous, i.e., likely to fall, either because it was top heavy or because it was placed at such an angle that vibrations or jarring ...


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