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HARDING v. EVANS

July 31, 1962

Lucille HARDING, Plaintiff,
v.
James EVANS, Defendant-Third-Party Plaintiff, v. Paul A. WEYAND, Third-Party Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SHERIDAN

This is a motion by plaintiff for a new trial in a negligence action in which the jury returned a special verdict. The Court entered judgment on the verdict in favor of the defendant, James Evans.

Jurisdiction is based on diversity of citizenship and the jurisdictional amount. Pennsylvania law controls.

 On November 10, 1957, a car operated by Paul A. Weyand, third party defendant, collided with a car operated by James Evans, defendant. Plaintiff was a passenger in the Weyand car. The accident happened on a bridge on Route 11 in Nicholson, Pennsylvania. Road conditions were bad. Some snow or sleet was either falling or had just fallen. Evans, proceeding South, entered the bridge, which was about 125 feet long and had two lanes, when the Weyand car, proceeding North and entering the bridge at the opposite end, skidded across the center line and collided with the Evans car at about the middle of the bridge. While Weyand did not know on whose side of the road the collision occurred, there was ample uncontradicted testimony that it occurred in Evans' lane. Evans testified he was travelling about 20 to 30 miles an hour as he entered the bridge. He attempted to steer to the right as far as possible, but did not use his brake because of the icy condition of the bridge. The evidence on the speed of Weyand was conflicting. Evans said Weyand was travelling at about 50 miles an hour, while Weyand said his speed was about 25 miles an hour. Weyand admitted that he skidded and lost control of his car.

 Plaintiff did not sue Weyand because she had settled her claim against him for $ 4,500.00. She gave him a release which provided, 'It is further agreed that in the event the parties are responsible to me/us for damages as a result of this accident, the execution of this agreement shall operate as a satisfaction of my/our claim against such other parties to the extent of the pro rata share of the parties herein released.' This release was given in pursuance of the 'Uniform Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act' of July 19, 1951, P.L. 1130, 12 P.S. 2082 et seq., which provides in 2086:

 'A release by the injured person of one joint tortfeasor does not relieve him from liability to make contribution to another tortfeasor, unless the release * * * provides for a reduction to the extent of the pro rata share of the released tortfeasor of the injured person's damages recoverable against all the other tortfeasors.'

 Evans brought in Weyand as a third party defendant. Weyand pleaded the release as a defense. Weyand was retained in the action because of the valuable right belonging to Evans under the joint tortfeasor act. Even though plaintiff could not recover against Weyand, if the jury found Weyand was a joint tortfeasor, the damages payable by Evans to plaintiff would be cut in half. *fn1"

 The charge included instructions on negligence, concurrent negligence, proximate cause, intervening act and superceding cause, sudden emergency, and skidding, together with other standard charges on liability. The jury was instructed to return a special verdict on issues framed by the Court. The issues and the jury's answers were:

 '1. Was the defendant, James Evans, negligent and did his negligence proximately cause the accident or proximately contribute to the accident?

 Yes -- -- - No xx

 '2. Was the third party defendant, Paul A. Weyand, negligent and did his negligence proximately cause or proximately contribute to the accident?

 Yes xx No -- -- -

 '3. What is the dollar amount of damages suffered by Lucille Harding?

 $ 16,000.00

 There were no objections to the charge or to the issues submitted to the jury. Plaintiff bases her motion on the Court's denial of her ...


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