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SHIMER v. BANGOR GAS COMPANY (ET AL. (03/19/63)

March 19, 1963

SHIMER
v.
BANGOR GAS COMPANY (ET AL., APPELLANT).



Appeal, No. 63, Jan. T., 1963, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County, Dec. T., 1961, No. 1, in case of Harry V. Shimer, to use of Bangor Gas Company, v. Bangor Gas Company and Kirk Construction Corporation. Judgment affirmed.

COUNSEL

Raymond J. DeRaymond, with him Coffin, Grifo & DeRaymond, for appellant.

John C. Hambrook, with him Fox, Oldt & Hambrook, for appellee.

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

Author: Musmanno

[ 410 Pa. Page 93]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE MUSMANNO

On August 11, 1961, Mrs. Donald Riley, living at 425 William Street in the Borough of Pen Argyl, smelled gas, always an ominous sign because gas being an inflammable and explosive substance, is supposed at all times to be imprisoned within containers which prevent its odors from being released into the open air. She cautiously made an investigation in her house and found nothing which would explain the sinister symptom. The next morning at 6 o'clock she opened the door leading into the cellar and was struck by an even stronger emanation than the one she had smelled the night before. Hastily closing the door, she made an attempt to call the Bangor Gas Company, which supplied the gas for her house.

She was unable to reach anyone at the gas company offices until 8:30, at which time she reported the gas leak and urged that someone be sent to her place at once to check conditions. The operator, who took the report rather casually, suggested she call one of two other numbers. The person answering at one of

[ 410 Pa. Page 94]

    the numbers given by the bored operator said with the same casualness Mrs. Riley had encountered at the gas company's office that he was not on duty but that she might call the second number given her by the gas company. The person answering at the second number said that this was indeed the home of a gas inspector, Edwards by name, but that he was not at home. Mrs. Riley related to this person at the second number the hovering menace in her dwelling, whereupon, with the same nonchalance which had characterized the languid girl at the gas company's switchboard and the uninterested person answering the first number, this person at the second number said that Edwards might be returning home for lunch, and if so, she would tell him that Mrs. Riley had called. In the meantime Mrs. Riley's home was filling with more detonating gas.

Eventually, at about 11:55 a.m., a man called Edwards appeared at Mrs. Riley's home, and in self-identification, called out that he was the "gas man." He entered into the kitchen, as he later testified, and smelled gas "right away." He descended into the unilluminated cellar, being careful, as he subsequently described the event, not to turn on the electric light switch because "there was too much gas," and even snapping the switch might create a spark which would ignite the explosive compound. Continuing his extreme vigilance and caution he went out to his truck to pick up a flashlight with which he could reconnoiter through the dark because a flashlight produces no flame, spark or scintilla which could cause an explosion. However, he discovered that he had failed to bring along a flashlight and so returned to the house, this time entering through the cellar door.

He could not see his way around because of the wholly enveloping gloom. He reflected on the situation and then arrived ...


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