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STEBNER v. YOUNG MEN'S CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION (01/09/68)

decided: January 9, 1968.

STEBNER, APPELLANT,
v.
YOUNG MEN'S CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION



Appeal from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Lycoming County, May T., 1964, No. 1234, in case of Raymond F. Stebner v. Young Men's Christian Association and Lundy Construction Company.

COUNSEL

Martin M. Fine, with him Fine and Eisenbeis, for appellant.

John C. Gault, with him Candor, Youngman, Gibson & Gault, for appellee.

H. Clay McCormick, with him Furst, McCormick, Muir, Lynn & Reeder, for appellee.

Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Musmanno. Mr. Chief Justice Bell, and Mr. Justice Jones and Mr. Justice Cohen dissent, as to reversing the judgment of non-suit entered in favor of Ymca.

Author: Musmanno

[ 428 Pa. Page 371]

On November 8, 1963, Raymond F. Stebner, the plaintiff in this case, entered the Williamsport YMCA to use its facilities as an invitee of the management, he having previously been a paid member of the organization. Undressing, he went into the heat room where he remained for 12 minutes, having been warned by an officer of the YMCA not to stay there too long. From the heat room he went into the steam room. No one had told him how to regulate the steam in this enclosure so he asked a Bill Miller, in the room with him, to open the door, which, however did not respond to his efforts. Stebner then tried turning the knob himself but the bolt of the lock refused to move. At this moment Stebner saw the shadow of a person on the other side of the glass panel of the door and he banged on the wooden section of the door to attract that person's attention. In the banging process his left hand (he being left-handed) slipped and went through the glass. Blood gushed from a severe cut and he called

[ 428 Pa. Page 372]

    out in excitement and alarm, "Get me out of here, get me out of here!" Nobody responded to his cry. In the meanwhile the bleeding from his arm continued profusely. Unnamed persons finally got to the door from the outside but they also had difficulty in unlocking it. He yelled to one of the men to "pick the glass out of the door and I'll crawl free, crawl through the door." Eventually the door unlocked and the wounded man was lowered to the floor while an ambulance was summoned.

He was taken to the hospital. The severe lacerations he had sustained called for corrective surgery, including a transplant of an ulnar nerve. His arm was placed in a cast for six weeks. He had to take physiotherapy for some 26 weeks. His medical expenses amounted to $1,812.73 and he averred a monetary loss in wages and commissions (he was an insurance agent) in the amount of approximately $6,000.

He brought an action of trespass against the YMCA and the Lundy Construction Co., which had built the steam room. After he presented his evidence at the ensuing trial, the court entered an involuntary non-suit in favor of both defendants. The plaintiff appealed.

The court in its opinion refusing to take off the non-suit admitted that there was a defect in the lock of the door behind which the plaintiff had been imprisoned. In its findings of fact the trial court said: "4. Prior to the incident there had been difficulty with a latch or lock on the steam room door; the door would not stay closed. 5. The Y.M.C.A. knew that the door latch or lock had not been operating properly but its knowledge was limited to the fact that the latch or lock did not operate properly when the door was closed; sometimes the door ...


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