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JANOWICZ v. CRUCIBLE STEEL COMPANY AMERICA (01/15/69)

decided: January 15, 1969.

JANOWICZ
v.
CRUCIBLE STEEL COMPANY OF AMERICA, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, April T., 1963, No. 299, in case of Paul Janowicz v. Crucible Steel Company of America.

COUNSEL

James F. Manley, with him Louis R. Dadowski, and Burns, Manley & Little, for appellant.

Allen H. Cohen, with him Gatz, Cohen & O'Brien, for appellee.

Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice O'Brien. Mr. Justice Jones concurs in the result. Mr. Justice Musmanno did not participate in the decision of this case.

Author: O'brien

[ 433 Pa. Page 306]

Appellee, Paul Janowicz, was a painter employed by Johnson Brothers Company, an industrial painting contractor. Johnson Brothers had contracted with Crucible Steel Company for the painting of that Company's 2300-foot long railroad-type trestle located at Crucible's plant in Midland, Pennsylvania.

Janowicz was required to work on scaffolding suspended in air and supported by cables which had been strung horizontally on each side of the trestle. On June 17, 1962, one of the steel cables was severed by its contact with an electric wire which ran vertically down one of the steel leg supports of the trestle for the purpose of supplying light to a shed. Janowicz was hurled to the ground and sustained serious personal injuries. He instituted suit against Crucible and after trial, the jury returned a verdict in his favor and against Crucible.

Crucible's motions for judgment n.o.v. and for new trial were refused and judgment was entered on the verdict. This appeal followed.

Crucible argues that the evidence was insufficient to support a finding of negligence on its part. It reasons that the scaffolding was erected by Johnson and that its, Crucible's, inspectors had viewed the scene prior to the accident and found that the cable in question had been tied back to prevent its coming in contact with the electric line. It contends that it had no reason to believe that the tie-back arrangement would change and no reason to guard against such a change. Furthermore, Crucible submits, the removal of the tieback

[ 433 Pa. Page 307]

    was the operative fact which permitted the contact between the cable and the wire and there was no evidence of who or what caused the removal or when it occurred. This argument of Crucible, however, is based on the erroneous assumption that Crucible is only guilty of negligence if it knew or should have known that the cable had become untied or was permitted to come into contact with the wire and failed to do something about it. This assumption, however, begs the real question: What was required of Crucible in the performance of its admitted duty to appellee as a business invitee? The duty owed to appellee as a business invitee was to exercise reasonable care to make its premises safe for him or to give him adequate warning of any dangers known to it and unknown to him. Mathis v. Lukens Steel Company, 415 Pa. 262, 203 A.2d 482 (1964).

The undisputed evidence was that the cable could not have been severed by the wire if Crucible had taken any one of the basic precautions such as fusing, metal conduit, relocating the wire to the inside (instead of the outside) of the steel leg, or having the wire temporarily disconnected during the painting job. Crucible's chief safety supervisor admitted that its installation and maintenance of the wire in question did not meet the safety requirements established by both industrial practice and by the National Electrical Code, by which Code Crucible admittedly governed its operations. The Code required the wire to be fused separately and placed in a metal conduit for protection. Instead the wire in question had a fabric insulation. Crucible's electrical foreman admitted that the purpose of the metal ...


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