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MATHIS v. LUKENS STEEL COMPANY. (06/01/64)

June 1, 1964

MATHIS, APPELLANT,
v.
LUKENS STEEL COMPANY.



Appeal, No. 17, Jan. T., 1964, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Chester County, April T., 1959, No. 9, in case of Wallace Mathis v. Lukens Steel Company. Judgment reversed.

COUNSEL

G. Clinton Fogwell, Jr., with him Melva L. Mueller, and Reilly and Fogwell, for appellant.

Joseph F. Harvey, with him MacElree, Platt, Marrone & Harvey, for appellee.

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

Author: Musmanno

[ 415 Pa. Page 264]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE MUSMANNO

The Kulzer Company, an independent contractor roofing and metal concern, operating in Chester County, contracted with the Lukens Steel Company, to install on the roof of a building of the steel company, known as the Sodium Hydrate Building in Coatesville, two ventilators, each weighing some 400 pounds. Wallace Mathis, an employee of Kulzer, and the plaintiff in this case, was designated as foreman of the job. On the morning of April 9, 1957, he arrived at the plant of the steel company between 8 and 8:30 o'clock where he was met by a Kenneth Buffington, the defendant's maintenance coordinator, who made all the arrangements to have Mathis and his materials come into the plant, and pointed out to him the places on the ridge of the roof where the ventilators were to be installed. There can be no doubt that while Wallace Mathis was on the defendant's property the morning of April 9, 1957, he was there as a business visitor and that the Lukens Steel Company owed him the duty of reasonable care to make its premises safe for him and to give him adequate warning of any dangers known to it and unknown to Mathis.*fn1

The aforementioned ventilators were to be hoisted to the top of the Sodium Hydrate Building, the eaves of which were 39 feet above the ground. From the eaves the roof on both sides sloped inwardly to a peak or ridge, the slope measuring 6 inches to the foot. About a foot inside the eaves, on the north slope of the roof, rose a series of 14 poles or wire towers, each 12

[ 415 Pa. Page 265]

    feet 8 inches high, and each bearing two cross arms, the higher one holding in place three wires.

On the morning indicated, Mathis, by means of rungs attached to the poles for climbing purposes, ascended to the top of one of the poles for the purpose of suspending from one of the arms a block and tackle to be used in lifting materials for the ultimate installation, to perform which, he was on the defendant's premises. He held in his hands two ropes. He succeeded in tying one of them around the upper cross arm and was about to fasten the other rope close by, when there shot through his body 13,200 volts of electricity.

He brought suit in trespass against the Steel Company because of his resulting injuries and at the ensuing trial the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant. The plaintiff seeks a new trial, alleging certain trial errors. In his charge, the trial judge instructed the jury that if they found that Mathis was a trespasser at the time of the accident the defendant company owed him no duty of care save, of course, that of refraining from inflicting upon him any willful or wanton injury.*fn2 The plaintiff urges this instruction as error.

The trial judge in support of his instruction cites Porreca v. Atlantic Refining Co., 403 Pa. 171, 174, where this Court said: "'One who is invited or permitted to enter a particular part of the land becomes a trespasser if he enters another part of the land ...': Restatement, Torts, section 341, comment (b). ...


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