Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas of Carbon County, Jan. T., 1965, No. 55, in case of Ellsworth A. Green v. Ella Jane Johnson.
Thomas S. McCready, for appellant.
Sidney R. Webb, with him Arnold Sousa, for appellee.
Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Musmanno. Mr. Justice Roberts concurs in the result. Mr. Justice Cohen dissents on the ground the jury could have found the plaintiff guilty of contributory negligence.
Ellsworth A. Green was driving north on North Front Street in Lehighton. He stopped on the east side of that street and looked south, which would be the direction from which other vehicles, if any, would travel in the lane in which he had parked. Seeing no traffic moving north, he opened his door on the driver's side and stepped out. In that instant he was hit by a car being driven by Ella Jane Johnson, the defendant in this case.
Miss Johnson had been driving south on North Front Street when a car preceding her stopped and double parked. She drove to her left around the double parked car and thus entered into the northbound lane where Green was about to disembark. In doing this, she got over so far into the northbound lane that the side of her car collided with the open door of the Green car, within the arc of the sweep of which Green was standing, inflicting injuries.
Green brought a suit in trespass against Miss Johnson and the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant. The trial court ordered a new trial, stating: "In our opinion, the verdict for the defendant in this case was so shocking and unjust that, as has been aptly stated by our appellate courts, 'The judicial process has resulted in working of an injustice upon the plaintiff.' Kiser v. Schlosser, 389 Pa. 131. Pritchard v. Malateste, 421 Pa. 11."
The defendant has appealed, urging judicial abuse of discretion. In ordering a new trial the trial judge said: "We are unable to understand how the jury determined there was no liability on defendant's part."
A reading of the record makes manifest the incomprehension of the trial judge over the jury's verdict. Certainly a cog in the machinery of justice slipped somewhere. When a jury's finding is so opposed to demonstrated facts that, looking at the verdict, the mind stands baffled, the intellect searches in vain for cause and effect, and reason rebels against a bizarre and erratic conclusion, it can be said that the verdict is shocking and unjust, and that a new trial is imperative. The accident in this case occurred on the plaintiff's side of the road where, normally, the defendant had no right to be. She explained that she had driven into that forbidden lane in order to pass the double-parked car ahead of her. This is a well-known exception to the rules of the road, but the exception is bound
up with a high degree of care. That momentary traversing of the opposite lane of traffic requires the caution of cliffside driving. The slightest delay in getting back to the highway of normal ...