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STEFFY v. CARSON (09/27/66)

decided: September 27, 1966.

STEFFY, APPELLANT,
v.
CARSON



Appeal from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Indiana County, Sept. T., 1961, No. 216, in case of Harold Steffy v. Milford E. Carson, Jr., Wilton R. Turner and William M. Marcou, individually and trading and doing business as Turner & Marcou.

COUNSEL

Robert E. Walsh, with him Donald M. Miller, and Suto, Power, Balzarini & Walsh, and Miller, Buterbaugh & Cope, for appellant.

Earl R. Handler, with him Handler, Malcolm & Earley, for appellees.

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

Author: O'brien

[ 422 Pa. Page 549]

On April 25, 1960, appellant sustained bodily injuries and property damage when he was involved in a collision with a tractor-trailer. To recover his damages, he commenced an action of trespass against appellee Carson, the driver of the tractor-trailer, and his employers, Turner and Marcou. Carson filed an action against appellant to recover property damage to his tractor-trailer.

The two actions were consolidated for trial, and trial commenced in February, 1963. This trial terminated in a mistrial, for reasons not here pertinent, and the cases were again called for trial in May of 1963. The jury found "plaintiff and defendants both guilty of negligence and not entitled to recover". Appellant filed a motion for new trial, which was denied, and this appeal followed the entry of judgment on the verdict of the jury.

The parties hotly contested the factual background of the collision, appellant contending that his car was struck while parked on an entranceway to a filling station, and appellees contending that appellant drove his car out onto the highway into the path of the oncoming truck.

This factual dispute reached an explosive point when M. Fred Dills, M.D., who testified as appellant's witness in both trials, was called at the second trial as appellees' witness. As a witness for the defendants, Dr. Dills testified that appellant had made a statement

[ 422 Pa. Page 550]

    to the Doctor in the emergency room on the night of the accident. The testimony was as follows: "Q. Did he give a statement and what was the statement? A. He couldn't remember what happened. That was in the Emergency Room before he went to his room. And somewhere along the line there was this sentence -- it's not verbatim, although the first part, I think, is verbatim -- 'I did the most foolish damn thing a man can do, I pulled out on the highway and I got hit by a truck,' or maybe 'got hit by something'. The last part is from memory. The first part is verbatim. Later, three or four days later, he repeated he didn't know what happened."

In order to impeach this testimony of Dr. Dills, appellant attempted to introduce in rebuttal his hospital records, to show a notation in Dr. Dills' own handwriting to the effect that the plaintiff "did not know where the accident occurred or how". He further attempted to introduce the notes of testimony of Dr. Dills from the earlier trial, to show that in that testimony, both on direct and cross-examination, Dr. Dills had testified that Harold Steffy was unconscious at the time of his admission to the hospital. Both of these offers were rejected.

Appellant's new trial motion contended that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence and the law, that the court unduly stressed the testimony of Dr. Dills, and that the verdicts were inconsistent and showed confusion on the part of the jury. The following day, additional reasons were filed in support of appellant's new trial motion, wherein appellant complained that prejudicial error was committed in the trial court's refusal to allow the introduction of the hospital records and notes of testimony hereinbefore mentioned, and in the ...


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