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JAMES F. DREW v. CHARLES LABER (03/23/78)

decided: March 23, 1978.

JAMES F. DREW, APPELLANT,
v.
CHARLES LABER, JR., AND TOWNSHIP OF RIDLEY, APPELLEE



COUNSEL

Kassab, Cherry & Archbold, Dale A. Betty, Media, for appellant.

George J. McConchie, Media, for appellee.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix, Manderino and Larsen, JJ. Pomeroy, J., filed a concurring opinion and O'Brien and Nix, JJ., joined. Roberts, J., filed a dissenting opinion in which Eagen, C. J., joins.

Author: Larsen

[ 477 Pa. Page 298]

OPINION

James F. Drew, while walking on Bullens Lane in Ridley Township, was permanently injured when struck by an automobile driven by Charles Laber, Jr. Drew instituted an action in trespass seeking recovery of damages against Ridley Township and Laber. After a jury returned a verdict in favor of Drew against Ridley Township and Laber in the sum of $173,440.55, Ridley Township filed motions for judgment n. o. v. and for a new trial. The trial judge vacated the judgment in favor of Drew and entered judgment in favor of Ridley Township against Drew, non obstante veredicto. The aforesaid order did not dispose of the motion for a new trial. Laber did not file any post-verdict motions.

[ 477 Pa. Page 299]

The order of the trial court was affirmed by the Superior Court by per curiam order. Subsequently, this Court entered an order granting Drew an appeal of the Superior Court's order.

The sole question before this Court is whether there was sufficient evidence to support the jury verdict. Smith v. Coca Cola Bottling Company, 152 Pa. Super. 445, 33 A.2d 488 (1943). In reviewing the trial court's judgment n. o. v. in favor of Ridley Township, this Court must consider only that testimony which supports the verdict. Elliott v. Philadelphia Transportation Company, 356 Pa. 643, 53 A.2d 81 (1947). The facts on which this Court must decide the appeal of Drew (the verdict winner) are those which the jury may have found from the evidence, including all reasonable inferences arising therefrom. Collins v. Pennsylvania R.R., 358 Pa. 168, 56 A.2d 236 (1948).

The incident occurred on February 10, 1969, at approximately 6 p. m. when Drew was proceeding south as a pedestrian on Bullens Lane toward the bus stop located at the intersection of Bullens Lane and MacDade Boulevard. Since Bullens Lane did not have shoulders, sidewalks or berms appurtenant to it, Drew was forced to walk on the roadway. As he was walking on the right edge of Bullens Lane, Drew was struck by an automobile owned and operated by Laber.

At trial, Laber testified that he (Laber) was proceeding in a southerly direction on Bullens Lane, heading toward MacDade Boulevard at approximately 20 to 25 miles per hour. When he saw headlights approaching from a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction, Laber placed his own headlights on low beam and, in order to avoid hitting the oncoming car, drove as far to the right as he could without becoming entangled in the brush and trees which hand over the embankments that border both sides of Bullens Lane. Just after the cars passed each other, Laber struck Drew with his vehicle. Laber had not seen Drew due to the fact that he was momentarily blinded by the oncoming headlights.

[ 477 Pa. Page 300]

Bullens Lane was not a desolate country road when this incident occurred. Rather, it was located in the middle of a highly residential area and was a connector or feeder road, joining the heavily traveled thoroughfares known as Sproul Road and MacDade Boulevard. At the point of impact, Bullens Lane was a two lane highway which had a width of seventeen feet. Dr. James J. Schuster, a traffic transportation engineer who was Drew's expert witness, testified that if a motor vehicle had a width of eight feet, two vehicles passing each other on this strip of roadway had a maximum clearance of one foot. Because there were no shoulders, sidewalks or berms appurtenant to the roadway and since the roadway was bordered by embankments which were covered with brush and trees, pedestrians such as Drew were compelled to walk along the roadway itself. Edward Lincoln, an officer on the police force of Ridley Township, testified that he frequently saw pedestrians walk on these traffic lanes. Notwithstanding these conditions, ...


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