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ANDREWS v. LONG (04/18/67)

decided: April 18, 1967.

ANDREWS
v.
LONG, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, April T., 1962, No. 2399, in case of George P. Andrews v. Francis P. Long, trading and doing business as Long Coal & Hauling Company.

COUNSEL

William Sloan Webber, for appellant.

Peter H. Block, for appellee.

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

Author: Musmanno

[ 425 Pa. Page 153]

George P. Andrews, who was driving east on Hamilton Avenue in Duquesne, observed, when about 15 feet from the intersecting North 2nd Street, that a truck approaching from his left was then some 80 feet away. The light for Hamilton Avenue traffic was green, for North 2nd Street red. The truck driver ignored the red light and entered into Hamilton Street, striking the Andrews car, inflicting injuries to Andrews. Andrews brought suit and recovered a verdict of $30,000.

The defendant has appealed, contending that he is entitled to judgment n.o.v. on the basis that Andrews was guilty of contributory negligence as a matter of law. He argues this on the proposition that, although Andrews moved on a green light, he was nevertheless negligent in not keeping his eyes on the approaching truck. While it is true a motorist may not abandon all caution and stifle the phenomena of his senses under the protective beam of a green traffic light, he still is not required to do what is unreasonable.

Andrews could not see up North 2nd Street until he was within 15 feet of the intersection because a building obtruded at the corner. When the plaintiff came abreast of the building and it no longer obstructed his vision he saw the defendant's truck some 80 feet distant and supposedly blocked by a red light. There was

[ 425 Pa. Page 154]

    nothing to tell him that the truck driver would defy the traffic warning, ignore the law of the road, and proceed headlong into obvious danger. The defendant says the plaintiff should have watched the truck, but the plaintiff could not, with safety to himself, keep his eyes glued to the truck. He was entering an intersection, he was proceeding downgrade where an acceleration could develop without his contributing to it, he had two other directions in which to look to parry potential collision.

This Court said in Rasmussen v. Dresnin, 382 Pa. 51: "A motorist entering an intersection under the protection of a green light, having once taken a comprehensive glance which reasonably assures him that no incipient situation can endanger his immediate forward movement, is not required to estimate with the accuracy of a speed calculator and stop watch what the other automobilist at present out of the intersection may possibly do. To impose stoppage or sluggish retardation of a car invited by the law to keep moving is to introduce an obstacle to expeditious travel which in itself may be as conducive to accident as excessive speed."

Andrews did take that "comprehensive glance" and noted a vehicle sufficiently far away that it cannot be said as a matter of law he was guilty of contributory negligence for not stopping, predicated on the proposition that he was compelled to assume the possibility that the truck driver would ignore the law which, through the medium of the traffic beacon, ordered him (the truck driver) to stop. Legal contributory negligence cannot be proclaimed unless the situation is such that reasonably minded men cannot differ as to its application. That was not the state of ...


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