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FRANC v. PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD (12/16/65)

decided: December 16, 1965.

FRANC
v.
PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Oct. T., 1962, No. 32, in case of Rosemarie Franc v. Pennsylvania Railroad.

COUNSEL

Michael R. Dougherty, for appellant.

Herbert N. Rosenberg, with him Rosenberg and Kirshner, for appellee.

Ervin, P. J., Wright, Watkins, Montgomery, Jacobs, and Hoffman, JJ. (Flood, J., absent). Opinion by Jacobs, J. Watkins, J., dissents.

Author: Jacobs

[ 207 Pa. Super. Page 72]

Defendant appeals from the judgment entered on a verdict for the plaintiff after the lower court denied its motion for judgment n.o.v. and for a new trial.

The facts, viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict-winner, establish that on March 8, 1962, the 21 year-old plaintiff was injured when she fell through an opening left by a missing plank in the walkway of a railroad bridge owned and maintained by the defendant. The bridge, one of three in the vicinity, had been used by pedestrians in the area to cross Chartiers Creek for about thirty years without objection from the defendant. It was between 40 and 50 feet long, was of steel frame construction and contained one set of tracks. On each side of the tracks was a three or four foot wide walkway of wooden planks, laid parallel to the tracks with a wooden railing at the edge of the walkway. The planks were two inches by ten inches and were between six and twelve feet long. A plank had been missing for about three weeks before the accident and freight trains passed over the bridge several times a day.

On the date of the fall, the weather was clear but there was three or four inches of snow on the ground. Plaintiff testified that she didn't see the hole left by the missing plank because the snow was "smoothed out, and it was like hanging over. You couldn't notice the hole or anything like that." Another witness testified that "the snow and soot had blended the bridge and the plank together, and you wouldn't know that there was a missing plank . . ." Plaintiff fell through the opening about fifteen feet to the creek bed below and sustained a broken ankle. Defendant offered no testimony at trial. The jury returned a $7,000 verdict for the plaintiff.

We are persuaded that under the law of Pennsylvania as it now exists defendant's request for a compulsory non-suit should have been granted.

[ 207 Pa. Super. Page 73]

In Falchetti v. Pennsylvania Railroad Co., 307 Pa. 203 at 206, 160 A. 859, 860 (1932), the Supreme Court held that "an alleged permissive way parallel with plaintiff's tracks and on its right-of-way, as distinguished from a permissive crossing over them, is not recognized in this State"*fn1 and that one who walks on the right-of-way is a trespasser. This case has been followed in Miller v. Pennsylvania Railroad Co., 350 Pa. 424, 39 A.2d 576 (1944); Tompkins v. Erie Railroad Co., 98 F. 2d 49 (1938); and Antonas v. Lyford, 144 F. 2d 763 (1944). It has not been overruled*fn2 and must be accepted as the law in this jurisdiction today. Neither the lower court nor this court can change the Falchetti holding by recognizing that a railroad can create a longitudinal permissive way for pedestrians by placing a wooden plank walkway on each side of its tracks on a railroad bridge, as was done in this case. An analysis of the factual considerations set forth in Falchetti suggests that perhaps the broad scope of the Falchetti rule should be reconsidered. However, until the Supreme Court does so, this plaintiff must be regarded as a trespasser.

As a trespasser, plaintiff would have us adopt Section 335 of the Restatement of Torts and consider the testimony in light of the standard of care suggested there. To do so, we would have to ignore the decisions of our Supreme Court defining the duty owed to a trespasser. This we cannot do. Our ...


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