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O'NEILL v. BATCHELOR BROTHERS (05/24/66)

decided: May 24, 1966.

O'NEILL, APPELLANT,
v.
BATCHELOR BROTHERS, INC. FUNERAL HOMES



Appeal from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County, June T., 1964, No. 293, in case of Thomas L. O'Neill and Eleanor M. O'Neill, his wife v. Batchelor Brothers, Inc., Funeral Homes.

COUNSEL

John J. Hudacsek, with him Hudacsek & Lewis, for appellants.

Lee E. Whitmire, Jr., with him Whitmire & Mannix, for appellee.

Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Eagen. Mr. Justice Musmanno dissents.

Author: Eagen

[ 421 Pa. Page 414]

Eleanor M. O'Neill, the wife plaintiff herein, fell and was seriously injured while leaving a public funeral home owned and operated by the defendant. This action for damages followed, and at trial the jury awarded the husband and wife plaintiffs a verdict for a substantial sum. Later, the court en banc, unanimously concluding, inter alia,*fn1 that the evidence was insufficient to establish the existence of negligence on the part of the defendant, entered judgment notwithstanding the verdict in favor of the defendant. The correctness of that judgment is challenged by this appeal.

The injured plaintiff, accompanied by her husband, arrived at the funeral home on the day of the accident during the daylight hours of the late afternoon to pay respect to a deceased friend. Two hours later, after

[ 421 Pa. Page 415]

    darkness had fallen, they proceeded to depart through the lobby to the main street entrance. This entrance consisted of two large glass doors, immediately outside of which there was a flagstone porch, about six feet in depth, partially covered with a black mat. At the extreme edge of this porch, there was a series of steps leading to the sidewalk. The porch or "walkway" leading to these steps was six and one-half inches below the level of the lobby floor.

On the outside of the funeral home, there was a cluster of three spotlights illuminating the side of the building where the entrance was located. Also, around the perimeter of this part of the building, there was a series of lamps equipped with 100 watt bulbs. Directly over the doorway entrance, there were three light fixtures with aluminum reflectors equipped with 75 watt bulbs.

The wife plaintiff testified that as she walked through the dimly lit lobby and approached the entrance, she noticed a glare coming through the glass doors from the outside. She pushed open one of the doors and "there was this glare, this brightness from these lights; then I looked down; it still gave me the impression of a straight walk-way; so then I stepped out, and I stumbled and fell down . . . . They were bright lights, probably the spotlights, what lighting it was that was putting this glare there; it was a shining brightness."

The burden was upon the plaintiffs to prove facts legally sufficient to support a cause of action. This required proof of: (1) breach of duty owed to them; (2) legal injury; and, (3) legal causation between the breach of duty, that is, negligence and the injury. See, Repyneck v. Tarantino, 415 Pa. 92, 202 A.2d 105 (1964), and Adams v. J. C. Penney Co., 411 Pa. 653, 192 A.2d 218 (1963). We agree with ...


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