Appeal from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County, Jan. T., 1962, No. 45, in case of Perry C. Buckalew and Mary J. Buckalew v. Albert C. DeAngelis.
Michael A. Davis, with him David H. Kubert, for appellants.
George M. Bush, with him Hartzel and Bush, for appellee.
Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Musmanno. Mr. Justice Eagen concurs in the result. Mr. Justice Roberts concurs in the result on the basis that there is no evidence of contributory negligence. Mr. Justice Cohen dissents.
Mrs. Mary J. Buckalew was driving north on Bustleton Pike in Bucks County, being preceded by another car which stopped where Gerald Avenue comes into Bustleton from the left to form a "T" intersection. After Mrs. Buckalew stopped (taking the appellee's version of the accident), she proceeded to skirt the
stopped car ahead of her and when she came abreast of it, the stopped car suddenly made a left turn into the lane accommodating southbound cars on Bustleton. A southbound car threw on its brakes with such suddenness and force as to squeal its tires, whereupon Mrs. Buckalew applied her brakes and stopped in order to avoid involvement in what seemed an imminent collision between the car on her left and the squealingtired automobile. While in this stopped position, the defendant-appellee, Albert C. DeAngelis, who had been following Mrs. Buckalew for a half or three-quarters of a mile, crashed into the rear of her car, inflicting damage to the automobile and injuries to Mrs. Buckalew.
At the ensuing trial in the trespass action which Mrs. Buckalew and her husband brought against DeAngelis, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant. The plaintiff appeals, seeking a new trial, urging that the trial court erred in its charge to the jury and that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence.
So far as academic correctness was concerned, the court properly charged on the law of negligence and contributory negligence. It allowed the jury, however, to believe that the plaintiff could have been guilty of contributory negligence for failing to do what the law did not require her to do, namely, give a hand signal before stopping.
The court charged: "Now, of course, the thing works the other way too. When we are driving along behind another car, we don't suddenly expect the car to stop without any reason or provocation or signal or anything else, suddenly ahead of it, and if such be the fact, again it might well be inferred by you as the finders of the facts that the person who made such a stop with no rhyme or reason or explanation was herself negligent. . ." (Emphasis supplied)
There was no testimony that the plaintiff had failed to give a signal. The defendant admitted that Mrs. Buckalew's braking lights flashed, this, in itself, being ...