truck. All these matters merely serve to point out that from the basically simple fact situation here, many legitimate inferences, widely opposed in conclusion, could be drawn by reasonable men.
In this light it remains only to discover whether the jury could have been misled by the charge. Plaintiff's points for charge, which were refused, were largely quotations from various Pennsylvania Supreme Court decisions and were, of course, correct statements of the facts and law in those cases. However, each case differed in its factual setting. In charging a jury it is incumbent upon the trial judge to avoid misleading the jury in the case being tried. Quotations from opinions in other cases are more likely to mislead than are broader statements of basic principles of law which are molded to fit the facts at issue. In a judge's opinion it may be proper to say: 'A man caught between the jaws of a vise closing ever so slowly will be killed as surely as though he were struck by a supersonic missile.' (Taken from plaintiff's point #5.) Saying the same thing in a charge to a jury could well be construed as prejudicial to a defendant when a general statement of principle would do as well, or as in this case, perhaps much better.
The rule is that a point for charge may be refused without error as long as a general charge which is correct under the law is given and covers that point. If the correct principle of law is brought home to the jury, the party proposing the point cannot complain. Moreover, it is difficult to see where there is error when all that was established at argument was the refusal of points and counsel failed to spell out specific errors in the charge.
Essentially, the negligence points of the plaintiff requested the Court to charge that the driver of a backing vehicle must exercise a higher degree of care than one driving a vehicle in a forward direction. The cases cited for this proposition clearly involve dissimilar factual situations. However, the basic law of negligence in automobile cases in Pennsylvania remains the same. The test of negligence is whether defendant exercised the reasonable care an ordinarily prudent man would use under all the circumstances present at the time of the injury. Of course, a defendant backing up a vehicle must use more care than one who is driving forward with an unimpaired field of vision because a reasonable man backing up a vehicle will be more cautious to compensate for the decreased opportunity to see objects in the path over which he is traveling. Lacaria, Admr. v. Hetzel, 373 Pa. 309, 310, 96 A.2d 132 (1953). However, there is more than one way to convey this concept to a jury. One way is to present them with all of the facts and leave it to their reasonable judgment whether 'under the circumstances' includes the fact a truck is being driven toward the rear rather than forward. The standard of care is the same in every negligence case, only the circumstances differ. To charge a jury that, as a matter of law, a man backing a truck must use more caution than one driving forward is to state the obvious at the expense of creating the possibility of confusion in the jury's collective mind as to the applicable standard of care. The question may or may not be one of semantics. However, no case has been cited for the proposition that in a case where an accident occurs when a vehicle is proceeding in reverse, the charge must include a statement that an extraordinary degree of care or great caution is required of the defendant. The facts are all clear, and no contradictory testimony was presented to the jury.
Much of the testimony involved in detail exactly what the defendant did while backing, where he looked, how often, the speed of the truck, and the relative positions of all persons and objects involved, as well as the practices normally followed by employees performing the operations in question.
In summation, it clearly appears to the Court that an eminently fair trial was afforded the plaintiff. The jury simply did not believe that the defendant was negligent, or they believed that the decedent was guilty of contributory negligence. The evidence supports either view. In my opinion a third trial should not be awarded, and the verdict of the jury was proper.
And now, this thirty-first day of December, 1963, in accordance with the foregoing Opinion, it is ordered that the motion of the plaintiff for a new trial be and the same is hereby denied.
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