Appeal from judgment of County Court of Allegheny County, No. 2807 of 1963, in case of Frank H. MacDougall et ux. v. Ford Motor Company et al.
James P. McKenna, Jr., with him Dickie, McCamey & Chilcote, for appellant.
H. N. Rosenberg, with him Rosenberg & Kirshner, for appellees.
Wright, P. J., Watkins, Montgomery, Jacobs, Hoffman, Spaulding, and Cercone, JJ. Opinion by Spaulding, J.
[ 214 Pa. Super. Page 385]
This is an appeal by Ford Motor Company, appellant, from a judgment entered upon a verdict for appellees Frank H. and Anne MacDougall. Appellant contends the court below erred in denying a motion for judgment n.o.v.
On April 17, 1962, a 1962 Comet station wagon owned and driven by appellees was involved in an accident on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Appellees brought a trespass action against appellant, the manufacturer, and Thompson Lincoln Mercury Company, the retail seller, to recover property damage.
At trial, appellees presented only the deposition of Mrs. MacDougall and testimony of Herbert Summers, an expert witness. From wife-appellee's deposition, a jury could find the following facts: The car was purchased on March 19, 1962, and prior to April 17 had been driven only 143 miles, never at speeds in excess of 30 m.p.h. On April 17 appellees set out on a trip in
[ 214 Pa. Super. Page 386]
it to Rhode Island via the Turnpike. Mrs. MacDougall took over the driving after traveling about 35 miles on the Turnpike and attempted to travel at 60 m.p.h. At this speed she was unable to control the car. As she described it: "A. . . . I started out and gradually got up to 60, but the car was handling so badly that I dropped back to 50. Q. When you say it handled badly at 60, what do you mean by that? A. I thought the wheel simply did not respond the way I expected it to. I had difficulty in keeping it going on an even course."
She reaffirmed this erratic behavior on cross-examination: "Q. What was the difficulty when you got up to 60 miles an hour? A. Well, even at 50 miles an hour it was handling badly and it seemed to handle better at 50 than 60. It was difficult to keep it on a straight line going on the road. It was necessary continually to manipulate the wheel, and it did not even respond nicely. Q. Did the steering seem loose? A. Sometimes it did; sometimes it seemed to stick."
The accident occurred after Mrs. MacDougall had driven 50 miles. While approaching a slight right-hand curve, she pulled into the left lane to pass. As the Comet pulled out, the steering difficulty became more severe. She could not control the steering wheel and the car went from the left lane onto the medial strip. On the first attempt to regain the roadway, the steering failed to respond. On the second attempt, the car oversteered, swerving across both eastbound traffic lanes. Mrs. MacDougall was unable to correct the oversteering and consequently the car rolled over on the berm.
Appellees' expert, Mr. Summers, examined the steering assembly to determine the source of the steering malfunction and found three specific mechanical defects. Metal flakes were present in the gear box; the bearing on the steering shaft was "tight"; ...