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ESCO L. IMES v. EMPIRE HOOK & LADDER CO. AND JACK F. ECK (04/19/77)

decided: April 19, 1977.

ESCO L. IMES, APPELLANT,
v.
EMPIRE HOOK & LADDER CO. AND JACK F. ECK, APPELLEES



Appeal From an Order Dated April 29, 1976 of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County at No. 73-2177, Civil Action, Law.

COUNSEL

John P. Yatsko, Norristown, for appellant.

William B. Koch, Norristown, for appellees.

Watkins, President Judge, and Jacobs, Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort and Spaeth, JJ. Price, J., files a dissenting opinion.

Author: Van Der Voort

[ 247 Pa. Super. Page 471]

This is an appeal from the refusal of the lower court to take off a non-suit in an auto accident case. The suit arose out of an intersection accident. The appellant was operating a motor vehicle in a northerly direction on Buttonwood Street in the Borough of Norristown and was struck by an off-duty fire truck traveling in a westerly direction on Airy Street.

The intersection is controlled by a traffic signal which was red as appellant approached it. He stopped and waited until the light turned green, looked for approaching cars on Airy Street and then started slowly across the intersection. Appellant testified that his vision at the intersection was somewhat obstructed by buildings which sat back about 5 feet from the intersection and by some cars parked along the south side of Airy Street. Consequently, he proceeded slowly, intending to go straight ahead. Appellant admitted that once he started across the intersection he no longer looked for cars on Airy Street but simply proceeded across the intersection. At about three-quarters through the intersection he was struck by appellees' truck and sustained serious injury. The appellee testified that the light was green turning to yellow as he approached the intersection. An investigating police officer testified that the fire truck laid down some 70 feet of skid marks before impacting with appellant's vehicle, suggesting that the driver may have been trying to beat the light.

At the conclusion of appellant's case, the trial court ordered a non-suit on the ground that appellant had been guilty of contributory negligence in not continuing to look for oncoming traffic on Airy Street once he entered the intersection. A post-trial motion to remove the non-suit was

[ 247 Pa. Super. Page 472]

    argued before the court en banc and denied. The present appeal followed.

The order of the court en banc denying the motion to remove the non-suit must be reversed. A motorist entering an intersection with a green light in his favor has a right to assume that those on intersecting streets will obey the law. He does not have an affirmative duty, as a matter of law, to continue looking after entering an intersection. Whether he was negligent in not continuing to look for oncoming traffic on the intersecting street is at most a question of fact for the jury. This was squarely ruled in Zumbo v. Ellis, 232 Pa. Super. 566, 568, 334 A.2d 770 (1975) and Jordan v. Kennedy, 180 Pa. Super. 593, 596-8, 119 A.2d 679 (1956). We held in Zumbo, 232 Pa. Super. p. 568, 334 A.2d p. 771, in reversing a compulsory non-suit:

"An operator of a vehicle at a controlled intersection is not negligent as a matter of law, if absent any warnings to the contrary, he relies on another operator's obligation to observe the traffic controls."

We made a similar ruling in Jordan in reversing a judgment n. o. v. after a verdict for damages arising out of an intersection collision, 180 Pa. ...


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