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IERVOLINO v. PITTSBURGH ATHLETIC CO. (06/13/68)

decided: June 13, 1968.

IERVOLINO
v.
PITTSBURGH ATHLETIC CO., INC., APPELLANT



Appeals from judgments of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, July T., 1964, No. 2809, in case of Evelyn Iervolino v. Pittsburgh Athletic Co., Inc.

COUNSEL

Donald W. Bebenek, with him Meyer, Darragh, Buckler, Bebenek & Eck, for appellant.

Joseph B. Bagley, with him Bagley, Sydor & Heck, for appellee.

Wright, P. J., Watkins, Montgomery, Jacobs, Hoffman, Spaulding, and Hannum, JJ. Opinion by Montgomery, J.

Author: Montgomery

[ 212 Pa. Super. Page 331]

On the evening of June 6, 1962 Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Iervolino, appellees, attended a night baseball game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Pittsburgh Pirates at Forbes Field in the City of Pittsburgh. They arrived during the bottom or last half of the second inning and sat in box seats on the ground floor of the stands along the first base line, seven or eight rows back from the bottom of the stands behind the "dug out" used by the Pittsburgh players. It was stipulated that the seat occupied by Mrs. Iervolino was 94.6 feet in a direct line from home plate. However, the closest distance by direct line between her seat and the first base line does not appear. Mrs. Iervolino had been attending such contests over a period of fifteen years and was aware that foul balls were frequently hit into the stands among the spectators.

On the occasion under consideration Don Hoak, a right-handed batter, came to bat and hit several balls foul. He then hit another one along the first base line which curved into the stands striking the wife-appellee under the eye. The time between the batter striking the ball with his bat and the ball striking Mrs. Iervolino was almost instantaneous, giving her little time to avoid it, although other spectators did do so.

The appellant-defendant had no protecting screen erected in front of the seat occupied by Mrs. Iervolino although there was one erected directly behind home plate.

Honorable Robert van der Voort, the learned trial judge, submitted the case to the jury on but one possibility of negligence: i.e., was it negligence for

[ 212 Pa. Super. Page 332]

    the defendant to invite a patron to a sports event and view a baseball game from a position where she was exposed to a hard projectile traveling 94 1/2 feet in a split second? The jury returned a verdict of $10,000 for the wife-plaintiff and $1,000 for her husband, on which judgments were entered following the dismissal of a motion for judgment n.o.v. in defendant's favor or a new trial. These appeals are from those judgments.

We are of the opinion that the lower court was in error in submitting this case to the jury and that judgment must be entered for the appellant on the authority of Schentzel v. Philadelphia National League Club, 173 Pa. Superior Ct. 179, 96 A.2d 181 (1953), cited with approval in Taylor v. Churchill Valley Country Club, 425 Pa. 266, 228 A.2d 768 (1967), and the principles therein enumerated. Without repeating those principles we must point out that a jury is not permitted to speculate or guess. The burden rests on the plaintiffs in such cases to prove by a fair preponderance of the evidence that the defendant failed to exercise reasonable care in the erection or maintenance of its baseball park commensurate with the risk involved; and in sustaining that burden they must meet the test generally adhered to in this Commonwealth with respect to methods and appliances employed in business by proving that the defendant deviated from ordinary standards. In the absence of such proof the question of negligence is not for the jury. No such proof appears anywhere in this record. Therefore the trial court erroneously permitted this ...


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