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HICKS v. UNGER MOTOR CO.

September 24, 1971

Anna Belle HICKS, Administratrix of the Estate of Henry Albert Hicks, Deceased,
v.
UNGER MOTOR COMPANY et al.


Gorbey, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: GORBEY

GORBEY, District Judge.

 This present action arises out of a collision occurring September 11, 1967, between a tractor trailer operated by plaintiff's decedent and another vehicle operated by Leon Hafer and owned by Hafer's employer, Unger Motor Company (Unger).

 As a result of this collision, decedent was crushed in the cab of the tractor by steel coils which were being carried on the attached flat-bed trailer.

 Plaintiff, Anna Belle Hicks, as administratrix of the estate of Henry Albert Hicks, deceased, instituted the present suit on February 6, 1969, against Hafer and Unger to recover damages resulting from the death of the decedent.

 On March 13, 1969, P. Liedtka Trucking, Inc. (Liedtka), lessee of the tractor trailer from Philip Liedtka, the owner of the tractor trailer which was operated by decedent, instituted a suit for property damage in the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County against defendants Hafer and Unger. On April 25, 1969, defendants Hafer and Unger joined Gary Anderson (Anderson) as an additional defendant in the Chester County action alleging Anderson's vehicle caused Hafer's vehicle to swerve, thereby causing the collision with decedent's vehicle. The Chester County action resolved itself when, on November 19, 1970, a jury returned verdicts in favor of both Liedtka and Anderson.

 Meanwhile, in August, 1969, original defendants Hafer and Unger filed third party complaints in the present federal action, joining 1. Roll Form Product Company (Roll Form), decedent's employer and lessee of the tractor trailer from Liedtka 2. Anderson 3. P. Liedtka Trucking, Inc. and Philip Liedtka, individually.

 Presently, before the Court are motions for summary judgment by P. Liedtka Trucking, Inc. and Philip Liedtka, Roll Form, Anderson, and Metals. Briefs were submitted and oral argument was held.

 Anderson and Liedtka predicate their motions on the doctrine of collateral estoppel by judgment. The principle can be stated as follows:

 
"Where there is a second action between parties or their privies, who are bound by a judgment rendered in a prior suit, but the second action involves a different claim, cause, or demand, the judgment in the first suit operates as a collateral estoppel as to, but only as to, those matters or points which were in issue or controverted and upon the determination of which the initial judgment necessarily depended." 1(b) J. Moore, Federal Practice § 0.441[2], at page 3777.

 When the Chester County jury returned a verdict in favor of Liedtka and Anderson, they concluded any issue of their negligence with regard to the collision at issue. Under Pennsylvania law, the jury's verdict for a plaintiff in an action based on negligence is a finding that the defendant was negligent and the plaintiff was free from contributory negligence. McCune v. Ellenberger, 1957, 182 Pa. Super. 442, 127 A. 2d 791; Valentine v. Philadelphia Transportation Company, 1950, 167 Pa. Super. 592, 76 A. 2d 471.

 Defendants have had their day in court and should not be allowed to relitigate the same issue in federal court. "The theory underlying the doctrine of collateral estoppel is that, as between the same parties and their privies, an issue need and should be judicially determined only once." 1(b) J. Moore, Federal Practice § 0.443[1] at page 3901.

 Accordingly, summary judgment will be granted in favor of Gary Anderson, P. Liedtka Trucking, Inc. and Philip Liedtka. ...


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