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MURPHY v. TAYLOR ET AL. (10/09/70)

decided: October 9, 1970.

MURPHY
v.
TAYLOR ET AL., APPELLANTS



Appeal from judgments of Court of Common Pleas of Greene County, Feb. T., 1969, No. 132, in case of Daniel L. Murphy et ux. v. James W. Taylor et al.

COUNSEL

Robert E. Wayman, with him Wray G. Zelt, R. Wallace Maxwell and Wayman, Irvin, Trushel & McAuley, for appellants.

W. Robert Thompson, with him Thompson & Baily, for appellees.

Bell, C. J., Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts and Pomeroy, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Jones. Mr. Chief Justice Bell, Mr. Justice Eagen, Mr. Justice Roberts and Mr. Justice Pomeroy concur in the result. Mr. Justice Cohen dissents.

Author: Jones

[ 440 Pa. Page 189]

On January 4, 1968, at the intersection of Routes 88 and 21 in Greene County, a motor vehicle operated by Daniel Murphy was struck by a lumber truck which was being operated by James Taylor for his employer, Sprowls Lumber Company. Murphy instituted a trespass action in the Court of Common Pleas of Greene County, against Taylor and Sprowls Lumber Company to recover damages arising from the accident.

In the area of the accident, commencing about 600' before its intersection with Route 88, Route 21 broadens from a two-lane highway to a four-lane highway. A medial strip separates the east and westbound lanes of Route 21 for approximately 300' on either side of the intersection. While Route 21 was being widened, -- up until one month prior to the accident, -- the two westbound lanes had been used for both east and westbound traffic.

On the day in question, both vehicles were traveling in an easterly direction on Route 21 when Murphy attempted to turn left from Route 21 to proceed north on Route 88 and was struck by Taylor. Murphy testified that he was in the left-hand, eastbound lane as he approached the intersection and that he put on his left blinker light, looked in his rear-view mirror, saw no traffic, and began to turn left onto Route 88 when he was struck by the lumber truck. This version of the accident was corroborated by two highway department employees who were stopped at the intersection who, also, claimed to have seen Taylor proceeding eastbound in the westbound lanes, on the wrong side of the medial strip.

On the other hand, Taylor testified that he was in the left-hand, eastbound lane and that he was about to pass Murphy in the right-hand lane, when Murphy, suddenly and without warning, turned left, directly into the path of Taylor's truck. Taylor testified that he

[ 440 Pa. Page 190]

    then swerved as far to his left as possible, but was unable to avoid striking Murphy's car. This version of the accident was corroborated by the driver and the passenger in a Coca-Cola truck which Taylor had passed immediately before the accident and also by the operator of a gas station at the intersection of Routes 21 and 88.

Following a jury trial and a $92,000 verdict in favor of Murphy, defendants' motion for a new trial was denied, judgment was entered on the verdict and this appeal followed.

The first point raised is whether the trial court erred in taking the jury to a view of the accident scene, without the presence of counsel for either the plaintiff or the defendants. Following the selection of the jury, on the morning of February 3, 1969, the court recessed and then reconvened at 1:30 p.m. to take the jury to the scene of the accident. At the view, the judge made a short, on-the-record statement, pointed out the two roads, the gas station and other features of the intersection which ...


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