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Mahon v. Reading Co.

decided: October 11, 1966.

FRANK MAHON
v.
THE READING COMPANY, APPELLANT



Biggs, Ganey and Freedman, Circuit Judges. Freedman, Circuit Judge (concurring in part and dissenting in part).

Author: Ganey

Opinion OF THE COURT

GANEY, Circuit Judge.

Frank Mahon brought the action here involved under the Safety Appliances Acts in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. He sought damages for a neck injury sustained by him on June 21, 1960, while he was applying a gondola car brake wheel which he alleged did not work properly during a shifting movement of freight cars. He received a verdict and the defendant railroad appeals from the denial of its motion for a new trial. The railroad claims that the trial court erred in denying its motion for a new trial because its right of cross-examination was unreasonably curtailed regarding three facets of the case, and in refusing its request for charge.

At the trial plaintiff testified on his own behalf that as a result of the injury he received on June 21, 1960, he suffered pain in his neck which caused him to lose a number of working days over a four-year period. He also revealed that he had been previously injured in an automobile accident in June of 1952, approximately eight years before the accident in suit and twelve years prior to trial, but that he had never injured his neck before. He told the jury that the scar on his forehead did not result from the automobile accident. On cross-examination, plaintiff admitted that he had been hospitalized for one day following the automobile accident. During this examination, a question seeking information as to whether the automobile accident was a "one-car" or a "two-car" collision, put to him by counsel for the railroad, triggered an objection by plaintiff's counsel on the ground of irrelevancy. Then the following colloquy ensued:

"THE COURT: -- I would sustain the objection.

"MR. McCONNELL [counsel for the railroad]: -- I think it might be interesting to know the extent of the injuries. It is cross-examination.

"THE COURT: -- I know, and I would normally admit it, but at this point actually there is no need to go into an accident that happened in 1952.

"MR. McCONNELL: -- I just thought it might be interesting to know the extent of the injuries at that time and how they affect his body generally.

"THE COURT: -- You could ask the question as to whether or not it affected his neck. He has already answered it.

"MR. McCONNELL: -- I just want to cross-examine him on that point, if I can, Your Honor.

"THE COURT: -- I will sustain the objection.

"MR. McCONNELL: -- Is that to the line of questioning, that I may inquire, or not?

"THE COURT: -- Well, I think there is not need in going into more details than have ...


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