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KUCHINIC v. MCCRORY (09/27/66)

decided: September 27, 1966.

KUCHINIC, APPELLANT,
v.
MCCRORY



Appeals from judgments of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Jan. T., 1959, No. 385, July T., 1958, No. 1002, and Oct. T., 1958, No. 2477, in cases of Ann C. Kuchinic v. Leo A. McCrory, administrator of estate of Henry P. McCrory, Jr., deceased; Mary Ellen Airhart, administratrix of estate of George Patrick Airhart, Jr., deceased, and Mary Ellen Airhart, in her own right v. Same; and Bernice O'Hara v. Same.

COUNSEL

Milton D. Rosenberg, with him John M. Feeney, and Bloom, Bloom, Rosenberg & Bloom, and McArdle, Harrington, Feeney & McLaughlin, for appellants.

William C. Walker, with him Dickie, McCamey & Chilcote, for appellee.

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

Author: Roberts

[ 422 Pa. Page 621]

This appeal involves three consolidated cases arising out of an airplane accident in the area of Brunswick, Georgia, on December 8, 1957, in which the pilot

[ 422 Pa. Page 622]

    and three passengers were killed. At the time of the accident the plane was en route to Pittsburgh from Miami, Florida, where the four occupants, all personal friends and Pennsylvania residents, had gone to attend a football game. Actions in trespass were instituted in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County on behalf of the deceased passengers against the estate of the pilot. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant-appellee; the trial court denied appellants' motions for a new trial and this appeal followed.

In Griffith v. United Air Lines, 416 Pa. 1, 203 A.2d 796 (1964), this Court abandoned the inflexible rule that the law of the place of the tort, the lex loci delicti, was invariably controlling.*fn1 Since the present cases were tried prior to our decision in Griffith, both the parties and the lower court assumed that the law of Georgia, the lex loci delicti, was determinative. Inasmuch as Georgia law requires a guest to prove gross negligence before recovering damages from his host,*fn2 appellants alleged and sought to establish such negligence. Their theory was that it constituted gross negligence for the defendant-pilot, who lacked instrument training, to fly into the adverse weather conditions which prevailed over the area of the crash. They alleged, as a result of the poor visibility, the pilot manuevered the plane into such an attitude that the wing became overstressed and broke off, causing the plane

[ 422 Pa. Page 623]

    to crash. In its verdict, the jury specifically found that the appellee was not guilty of gross negligence.

Appellants now contend that in light of the intervening Griffith decision the law of Pennsylvania, not Georgia, should have determined the legal effect of the host-guest relationship. Since Pennsylvania does not have a guest statute, appellants argue that recovery in these cases could have been sustained upon a finding of simple negligence and that, therefore, the trial judge erred in instructing the jury that they must find gross negligence in order to return a verdict in favor of the appellants.

We agree with appellants that the policy and interest analysis spelled out in Griffith v. United Air Lines, 416 Pa. 1, 203 A.2d 796 (1964) requires that Pennsylvania law be applied to these facts. See also McSwain v. McSwain, 420 Pa. 86, 215 A.2d 677 (1966); Elston v. Industrial Lift Truck Co., 420 Pa. 97, 216 A.2d 318 (1966). Factually this case is almost identical with the problem presented in Babcock v. Jackson, 12 N.Y. 2d 473, 240 N.Y.S. 2d 743, 191 N.E. 2d 279 (1963), where the New York Court of Appeals, disregarding the strict application of the lex loci delicti, held the guest statute of Ontario, inapplicable to an Ontario accident involving New York residents. The only distinction between Babcock and the present case is that the statute involved in Babcock ...


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