demonstrated to the Court that his opinion would not be one of an inexperienced and unknowledgeable person. Mr. Palmer had road-tested many brake systems himself by taking truck vehicles out on a specified series of road tests to study personally the operation and the brake systems under various prescribed procedures. It is significant to note that these tests included driving trucks down steep, winding hill roads, and the application of brakes under a multiplicity of circumstances.
Furthermore, Mr. Palmer was present throughout the entire trial, heard the witnesses, saw all the exhibits and photographs, and personally inspected the scene of the accident, as well as the vehicle following the accident. With his many years of experience and a wide background of knowledge of the subject, this Court ruled properly that the witness was more than qualified to give his expert personal opinion as to the propounded question. It was the duty of the jury, as outlined in my charge, to determine the credibility of Mr. Palmer and to reject or accept his testimony as they saw fit.
III. WAS IT FUNDAMENTAL PREJUDICIAL ERROR FOR THE TRIAL COURT TO PERMIT THE EXPERT WITNESS, PRUYN, TO TESTIFY THAT DECEDENT'S FAILURE TO ADJUST THE BRAKES ON HIS TRUCK WOULD BE 'NEGLIGENT'?
IV. DID THE TRIAL JUDGE COMMIT PREJUDICIAL ERROR IN CHARGING THE JURY TO CONSIDER PENNSYLVANIA STATUTES RESPECTING RECKLESS DRIVING, SPEEDING, DRIVING ON MOUNTAIN HIGHWAYS AND COASTING DOWNHILL?
These last two contentions of the plaintiff will be considered simultaneously since they are closely related.
Mr. Pruyn was called by the plaintiff as his expert in the field of automotive maintenance. However, a careful review of Mr. Pruyn's complete testimony reveals that the witness contended that his expertise was not limited to automotive maintenance but extended from the manufacture and production of fan belts to the proper and safe driving procedures for motor vehicles. He further volunteered on direct examination that according to a manual on safe driving procedures written by him for the War Department, dated 1952 (N.T. p. 451), it would be an unsafe procedure to drive a vehicle out of gear while descending a hill. (N.T. p. 452) Thus plaintiff's own expert 'opened the door' and it was not irrelevant, incompetent or improper for him to testify that it would be presumably negligent to operate a truck for 29,500 miles without adjusting the brakes. He said, 'Operating a vehicle without adjusting the brakes for 29,000 miles would be stupid. * * * Presumably negligent. * * *' (N.T. p. 569).
This testimony occurred on the cross-examination of plaintiff's expert where, obviously, the counsel interrogating the witness could in no way anticipate the answer. In addition, any reasonable person would certainly agree that this involved no jury question for everyone's common knowledge of a motor vehicle would lead to this conclusion. Plaintiff's examination invited this question.
Plaintiff contends that the Trial Judge committed error in reading to the jury sections of the Motor Vehicle Code as found in §§ 75 P.S. 1001(1), 1002(a), 1023 and 1026.
These sections were pertinent and relevant to the issues, especially § 1026. It is to be noted that the expert, Mr. Pruyn, read from said War Department Manual, as part of the plaintiff's case, the rules concerning descending. (N.T. p. 452) These rules clearly fit into the portions of the statutes read to the jury.
Immediately following, the reading of these statutes the Trial Judge also charged the jury as to the sudden emergency doctrine which would excuse the decedent for permitting the truck to get out of control. If anything, this was perhaps more favorable to the plaintiff than the facts disclosed and prejudiced no rights of the plaintiff. The Court instructed the jury as to the law applicable in this case, and that it was the duty of the jury to apply this law as they saw fit in relation to the evidence presented to them. I can find no error in all of these instructions.
The trial of this case consumed twelve days during which the Trial Judge allowed plaintiff's counsel wide latitude in his testimony. To the writer, the evidence in plaintiff's case was very weak, and the case likely turned on the credibility of witnesses. As a shining example, when the first witness testified that the truck was traveling at one hundred (100) to one hundred fifty (150) miles per hour (N.T. p. 33) before the accident (repeated in a hypothetical question), if the jury should disbelieve this testimony it may be said without speculation that in like manner the jury disbelieved that the witness heard a slapping sound under the hood (N.T. p. 26), and that the mechanical brake was back to the seat (N.T. p. 28). Finally, witness said that be blacked out as 'we kept gaining speed'. The jury, I am sure, applied the old legal maxim 'Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus'.
The interrogatories submitted to the jury, and their answers thereto, clearly indicate the defendants were not negligent, and that plaintiff's decedent was guilty of contributory negligence; and further, that there was no breach of warranty.
I have carefully reviewed the contentions of the plaintiff and I find them without merit, so that the motion for new trial is denied.