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GLEESON v. WOOD

June 5, 1970

Bonnie Elizabeth Scott GLEESON
v.
Margaret Gray WOOD and Alfred C. Wood, Jr.


Body, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: BODY

Presently before the Court are defendants' motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and, in the alternative, for a new trial.

 Plaintiff brought this action to recover damages for the injuries she sustained when she crashed into a sliding glass door in the defendants' home. The accident resulted in the severance of the femoral artery and the sciatic nerve in plaintiff's right leg. Both were successfully reunited through subsequent operations, although plaintiff never regained the use of her right foot and still has what is referred to as a "drop foot". Her promising ice-skating career, as well as her other athletic pursuits, were also cut short as a result of the injuries. The case was tried to a jury and ended in a verdict for plaintiff in the amount of $52,000.00.

 Motion for Judgment N.O.V.

 It is axiomatic that when viewing the record on a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, the court is bound to accept the evidence and all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the party against whom the motion is made. Dudding v. Thorpe, 47 F.R.D. 565 (W.D. Pa. 1969). Accordingly, we proceed to a consideration of defendants' argument in that light.

 At the time of the accident, on July 18, 1964, plaintiff was employed as a baby-sitter in the home of Drs. Margaret and Alfred Wood. Plaintiff was then seventeen years of age. It was her responsibility to watch over the Woods' three children *fn1" from approximately 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. on weekdays. Part of plaintiff's job included amusing the children, keeping them occupied, and serving generally as their companion.

 The Woods' home is laid out in such a way that one entering the home through the front door encounters a center hall. To the right of this center hallway is a living room and beyond the living room is an enclosed sun porch. One wishing to go from the living room to the sun porch must go through a doorway containing the sliding glass door in question. The left side of the door, as one approaches the sun porch from the living room, is a fixed panel of glass while the right side is a sliding glass panel which slides in front of the fixed panel when open.

 Plaintiff had been working as a baby-sitter in the Woods' home for about two weeks when the accident happened. On a number of occasions she had passed back and forth from the living room to the sun porch through the open right-hand section of the door. During that time she does not recall ever having seen the sliding glass door closed.

 Just before the accident, plaintiff and defendants' daughter Diana were out on the sun porch. Defendants' daughter Dierdra and her cousin, Polly Gray, were outside playing in a water-filled boat in the backyard. Plaintiff went outside to see what the two children were doing and was ultimately splashed by one of them. This gave rise to a game of tag. At one point in the game, Dierdra attempted to tag the plaintiff. In an effort to elude her, plaintiff ran from the backyard into the kitchen, through the center hall and into the living room. As she approached the sliding glass door, plaintiff saw Diana standing in what appeared to plaintiff to be an open doorway. She ran toward the right-hand section of the doorway, intending to pass through it and onto the sun porch. When plaintiff was about a foot away she realized that a glass panel was in front of her, but was unable to stop. Her right knee hit the door and broke the glass. The force of the impact turned plaintiff around in such a way that she came to rest sitting on the jagged glass remaining in the door with her body facing into the living room.

 Defendants argue that as a matter of law they were not negligent. Specifically, they contend that reasonable men could not find that a hidden danger existed, or that defendants knew or should have known of the hidden danger if one were found to exist. They further assert that even if a danger existed, it was an obvious one for which defendants bore no responsibility to the plaintiff. Alternatively, defendants contend that, assuming arguendo they were negligent, plaintiff nevertheless must be found contributorily negligent as a matter of law.

 The Court cannot agree with these arguments. On all of the above issues there was sufficiently conflicting evidence for the case to go to the jury and we must abide by its verdict. Kanner v. Best Markets, Inc., 188 Pa. Super. 366, 147 A. 2d 172 (1958). Shannon v. Butler Homes, Inc., 102 Ariz. 312, 428 P. 2d 990 (1967).

 The defendants also assert that the only reasonable conclusion to be drawn from the evidence with respect to the issue of parental negligence liability for the conduct of the children is that defendants were not negligent. Again we conclude that the evidence warranted submission of that issue to the jury and its verdict must be upheld.

 Motion for New Trial

 During the second day of deliberation, the jury sent the following question to the Court concerning the special ...


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