No. 577 October Term, 1977, Appeal from the Order Entered November 10, 1976, by the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County, Civil Action-Law, at No. 228 January Term, 1975
William G. Ross, Bethlehem, with him Sigmon, Littner & Ross, Bethlehem, for appellants.
No appearance entered nor brief submitted for appellee, Conway W. Gift.
Robertson B. Taylor, Bethlehem, for appellee, City of Bethlehem.
Watkins, President Judge, and Jacobs, Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort and Spaeth, JJ. Van der Voort, J., dissents. Watkins, former President Judge, did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.
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This appeal is taken from an order of the court en banc denying appellants' motion to remove a compulsory non-suit
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entered in favor of the City of Bethlehem. The sole issue for our consideration is whether the court erred in refusing to take off the non-suit. For the following reasons, we hold that it did, and consequently reverse the order of the court below and remand for trial.
Our review of the propriety of the lower court's decision is governed by the standard that a non-suit is proper only if the jury, viewing the evidence and all reasonable inferences arising from it in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, could not reasonably conclude that the elements of the cause of action have been established. Ford v. Jeffries, 474 Pa. 588, 379 A.2d 111 (1977). A compulsory non-suit may be entered only in a clear case where the facts and circumstances lead unerringly to but one conclusion. Paul v. Hess Brothers, Inc., 226 Pa. Super. 92, 312 A.2d 65 (1973). Plaintiff must be given the benefit of every fact and every reasonable inference of fact arising from the evidence, whether direct or circumstantial, and all conflicts must be resolved in the plaintiff's favor. Jurich v. United Parcel Service of New York, Inc., 239 Pa. Super. 306, 361 A.2d 650 (1976). Viewing the evidence in this light, the following facts may be adduced.
Shortly before midnight on February 17, 1974, two police officers of the City of Bethlehem seated in their patrol car observed a vehicle driven by Manuel Santiago enter an intersection they were patrolling. After deciding that the driver of the vehicle was exceeding the speed limit, the officer initiated pursuit with flashing lights and siren. The pursued vehicle increased its speed and proceeded through the next intersection on a green light, with the police car approximately fifty feet behind. The chase continued another block through a red traffic signal, where both cars turned right, and through a stop sign after the light. Pursuit proceeded several more blocks through intersections controlled by traffic lights, some red and some green, with both vehicles travelling in the oncoming lane of traffic to pass the normal flow of traffic. Both vehicles reached
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speeds in excess of sixty miles per hour. At a point approximately two miles from where the chase originated, the pursued vehicle ran one final red light, and collided with a vehicle entering an intersection from the Bethlehem Steel factory. At the time of the collision, the police ...