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PHELPS v. PAUL L. BRITTON (06/04/63)

June 4, 1963

PHELPS
v.
PAUL L. BRITTON, INC., APPELLANT.



Appeal, No. 17, March T., 1963, from order of Court of Common Pleas of Crawford County, Sept. T., 1957, No. 183, in case of F. Jarold Phelps v. Paul L. Britton, Inc., John B. Chamer, Archbishop John Mark Gannon et al. Order, as modified, affirmed.

COUNSEL

Stuart A. Culbertson, with him Paul E. Allen, for appellant.

Paul D. Shafer, Jr., with him Shafer, Shafer and Dornhaffer, for appellee.

Vincent J. Pepicelli, for appellee.

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

Author: Cohen

[ 412 Pa. Page 56]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE COHEN

Plaintiff was employed as a carpenter in the construction of a church in Crawford County. A committee of the church headed by the pastor, Reverend Toland, was in charge of the construction with John Chamer, a committee member, serving as foreman of the work.

In building the church, it was necessary to erect large wooden arches between which were placed cross-timbers known as purlins. In order to raise these arches and purlins, the church committee made a contract with defendant, Paul L. Britton, Inc. (Britton), whereby the latter would supply at the rate of $16 per hour a crane and two operators - Spearly, a crane operator, and McConnell, a signalman and oiler.

[ 412 Pa. Page 57]

On the day in question, plaintiff was working on a movable scaffold about 15 feet above the ground "toenailing" purlins into place. As was the normal procedure, plaintiff removed the sling attached to the purlin and dropped the line so that another purlin could be raised. Instead of dropping free, however, the sling wrapped around the scaffold with the result that when Spearly, the crane operator, started to retract the line, the scaffold was tipped throwing plaintiff to the cement floor below. There was no direct testimony as to why the line did not drop free or as to whether the sling had attached to the scaffold prior to the time when Spearly was given the signal to retract the line.*fn1

Plaintiff brought suit against defendant Britton on the theory that its employee McConnell had given a signal to retract the line before it was safe to do so. Defendant denied liability and joined Reverend Toland and John Chamer, the foreman, as additional defendants.

At trial, compulsory nonsuits were entered in favor of the additional defendants, and the jury returned a verdict of $6,000 against the original defendant. Britton's motion for judgment n.o.v. and to take off the nonsuits were denied. Plaintiff's motion for a new trial on the ground that the verdict was inadequate was granted, ...


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