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DAVANTI v. HUMMELL. (11/13/62)

November 13, 1962

DAVANTI, APPELLANT,
v.
HUMMELL.



Appeal, No. 241, March T., 1962, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County, April T., 1960, No. 483, in case of Dolores Davanti and Anthony T. Davanti, her husband, v. Frank Hummell, James A. Yurt, H. Ellsworth Kifer et al. Judgment reversed.

COUNSEL

John N. Scales, with him John D. Lyons, and Scales and Shaw, for appellants.

Robert W. Smith, Jr., with him Smith, Best and Horn, for appellees.

Before Bell, C.j., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen and O'brien, JJ.

Author: Musmanno

[ 409 Pa. Page 29]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE MUSMANNO

Mrs. Dolores Davanti, 34 years of age, was a member of a husband and wife bowling team in Jeannette. On the evening of September 7, 1958, she entered, with her husband, the Bowl-A-Rena in that city to participate in a bowling match. She arrived at 8:45 o'clock, hung up her coat, got into her bowling shoes, took a seat at a bench in the rear of Alleys 9, 10, 11, and 12 and waited for the other bowlers to arrive. They all assembled by 9:20, and some time between 9:20 and 9:30 the game got under way.

Mrs. Davanti was the first bowler and she prepared to use Alley No. 10. She picked up a bowling ball and at a point about two feet before the runway began her maneuver to launch the ball. She ran forward on to the runway, her eyes on the foul line (which a bowler must not trespass) and on the duck pins at which she was aiming. When she reached her fifth running step, her left foot encountered a substance of some kind which held her for an instant and she sprawled forward on hands and knees, sustaining injuries. A member

[ 409 Pa. Page 30]

    of the league, a Jack Byrns, helped her to her feet and she now examined the floor to see what had caused her to tumble. She found a sticky and waxy substance about the shape and size of a silver dollar. She scraped her shoe over it, confirming that it was of an adhesive constituency. One of the members of the league informed the management as to what had happened and an attendant came at once to wipe up the substance with a piece of steel wool.

Mrs. Davanti and her husband brought an action of trespass against the owners of the Bowl-A-Rena. At the trial, the judge entered a compulsory non-suit on the basis that even if the accident happened as described by Mrs. Davanti, there was no proof that the defendants had actual or constructive notice of the foreign substance on the floor.

Reading the evidence, as we are required to do in considering the lifting of a non-suit, in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs, we must assume that the offending substance was on the bowling floor for a period of from 35 to 45 minutes. Is that enough time to establish constructive notice, for it is not claimed that the defendants had any actual notice of the "silver dollar" obstruction?

The length of time required to fasten constructive notice of a dangerous condition on the owner of premises open to the public fluctuates according to the nature of the establishment and the need for inspection. There could be a state of affairs when even five or ten minutes would be enough interval for notice and another situation where as long as five hours or five days would not be sufficient time. A situation involving the cooking of food in a kitchen, or the preparation of medicine in a pharmacy, for instance, could fall within the ...


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