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COLLINS v. ZEDIKER (04/19/66)

decided: April 19, 1966.

COLLINS, APPELLANT,
v.
ZEDIKER



Appeal from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Butler County, Dec. T., 1962, No. 79, in case of Catharine Collins v. Raymond Ralph Zediker and Gerald L. Crawford.

COUNSEL

Donald D. Doerr, for appellant.

Richard B. Kirkpatrick, with him Galbreath, Braham, Gregg, Kirkpatrick & Jaffe, for appellee.

Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen and O'Brien, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Musmanno. Mr. Justice Cohen concurs in the result.

Author: Musmanno

[ 421 Pa. Page 52]

How fast does a man walk? A woman? A child? An aged person? If in a hurry? If not in a hurry? The answer to these questions would inevitably be: It depends on the circumstances. That is what this case is about.

Mrs. Catharine Collins, while crossing from the western to the eastern side of a road 18 feet wide, was

[ 421 Pa. Page 53]

    about two-thirds of the way to her goal when an automobile traveling in a northward direction struck her. The jury returned a verdict for the defendants and the plaintiff seeks a new trial, asserting that the trial court erred in allowing an expert witness to estimate the speed of a pedestrian's pace.

Wm. P. Greenough, an engineer, testified that a person walking at a slow rate would take 6 seconds to advance 18 feet, moving at a moderate rate of speed he would occupy 5 seconds to traverse that distance, and if he walked at a fast rate, 4 seconds would carry him to his destination. This same engineer had testified that if the defendant's automobile was moving at 50 miles per hour, it would take 13.3 seconds to cover the unobstructed clear vision south of the plaintiff.

It could well be that the jurors, having accepted as scientific fact, the engineer's testimony as to the time required for an automobile to travel a certain distance (a subject not necessarily within the general knowledge of the average layman), concluded that the engineer must have been equally expert on walking speed and that if he had worked it out mathematically and engineeringly that the plaintiff deliberately walked into a collision, they had no further responsibility in the case. On that basis of reasoning, if it occurred, and we cannot say by the record that it did not occur, since the verdict included the possibility of that conclusion, the plaintiff was done an injustice, since it was the jury's responsibility to determine the speed of the plaintiff's walking, not the engineer's.

Phenomena and situations which are matters of common knowledge, may not be made the subject for expert testimony. In Burton v. Horn & Hardart, 371 Pa. 60, this Court said: "Expert testimony is inadmissible when the matter can be described to the ...


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