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TOFF v. ROHDE (09/15/66)

decided: September 15, 1966.

TOFF
v.
ROHDE, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, No. 63-1628, in case of Robert Toff v. William Rohde.

COUNSEL

Stanford S. Hunn, with him Pearlstine, Salkin & Hardiman, for appellant.

Harvey S. Luterman, with him Rosenzweig, Krimsky & Luterman, for appellee.

Ervin, P. J., Wright, Watkins, Montgomery, Jacobs, Hoffman, and Spaulding, JJ. Opinion by Hoffman, J.

Author: Hoffman

[ 208 Pa. Super. Page 413]

This action arose out of a three-car chain collision on the Schuylkill Expressway, a limited access, divided highway connecting the Pennsylvania Turnpike to central Philadelphia. Shortly before 5:00 p.m. on October 20, 1961, plaintiff, Robert Toff, was proceeding in an easterly direction on the expressway. The weather was clear and the roadbed dry. Dense, homeward-bound traffic was moving at a speed variously estimated at 45 to 60 miles per hour.

The line of cars in advance of plaintiff came to a halt, and he hastily applied his brakes. Testimony is conflicting as to whether he then struck the car ahead of him, driven by witness Ruggiano, or whether he succeeded in stopping a few feet from it. In any event, defendant William Rohde, driver of the third automobile in the chain, immediately struck the rear of plaintiff's car, causing him substantial personal injury and property damage.

The trial court refused defendant's requested charges regarding plaintiff's contributory negligence, effectively removing that question from the jury's consideration. From a verdict and judgment for the plaintiff in the amount of $7500, the defendant appeals.

Under certain circumstances, an abrupt stop by a forward vehicle, which allows neither sufficient time nor sufficient distance for a vehicle in the rear to stop, may render the driver of the forward vehicle negligent or contributorily negligent. Huey v. Blue Ridge Transportation Company, 350 Pa. 488, 39 A.2d 602 (1944); Parker v. Yellow Cab Company, 391 Pa. 566, 137 A.2d 317 (1958).

In Chadwick v. Popadick, 390 Pa. 511, 136 A.2d 87 (1957), three cars were proceeding in a line of traffic. The second passed the first and stopped suddenly a few seconds after assuming the lead position to observe some deer grazing at the side of the road. The

[ 208 Pa. Super. Page 414]

    result was a three-car chain collision. In a suit by the driver of the second vehicle against the drivers of the first and third, the Court held a directed verdict for the driver of the lead car improper. His negligence was a question of fact for the jury. "The driver of the leading car in a procession of 3 or 4 cars is charged with the responsibility of driving in a manner which will avoid a telescopic crash in the event he should suddenly stop." Id. at 515.

A motorist in the midst of a line of rapidly moving vehicles owes an analogous duty to the car following. The realities of modern expressway travel require no less. He must proceed at a reasonably safe distance behind the vehicle ahead of him, that is, a distance which will permit him under the circumstances to avoid a sudden and abrupt stop and a telescopic collision in the rear. Cf. Ellis v. McCubbins, 312 Ky. 837, 229 S.W. 2d 992 (1950). If he fails to do so, and if this necessitates a sudden stop which contributes to a collision between his and a ...


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