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EVELYN M. JONES v. THREE RIVERS MANAGEMENT CORPORATION AND PITTSBURGH ATHLETIC COMPANY (11/18/78)

decided: November 18, 1978.

EVELYN M. JONES, APPELLANT,
v.
THREE RIVERS MANAGEMENT CORPORATION AND PITTSBURGH ATHLETIC COMPANY, INC.



No. 97 March Term, 1978, Appeal from the Order of the Superior Court entered December 2, 1977, at No. 129 April Term, 1977, reversing the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, at No. 372 October Term, 1972, Civil Division.

COUNSEL

Clyde P. Bailey, Bailey & Bailey, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Donald W. Bebenek, Michael V. Gilberti, Meyer, Darragh, Buckler, Bebenek & Eck, Pittsburgh, for appellees.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Manderino and Larsen, JJ. Pomeroy, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Roberts

[ 483 Pa. Page 78]

OPINION OF THE COURT

Appellant Evelyn M. Jones brought an action of trespass in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County against appellee Pittsburgh Athletic Company, Inc., holder of the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball franchise, and appellee Three Rivers Management Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Pittsburgh Athletic Company, Inc., which manages Three Rivers Stadium.*fn1 A jury found appellees negligent and awarded appellant damages of $125,000. The Superior Court held that appellant failed to establish a prima facie case and reversed and remanded for entry of judgment

[ 483 Pa. Page 79]

    notwithstanding the verdict as to both appellees. We granted allowance of appeal and now reverse.*fn2

I

Appellant was injured at Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, on July 16, 1970, the sport facility's inaugural day. Two interior concourses, or walkways, encircle the stadium on its second level. One concourse, at the outer circumference of the stadium and away from the playing field, houses concessions and restrooms. The other, located behind the seating and scoreboard areas, runs, in part, directly behind and above "right field." Built into the concourse wall above right field, are large openings through which pedestrians may look out over the field and stands. Ramps lead patrons from this second walkway to the seating areas overlooking the field of play. Appellant was standing in this second walkway in the vicinity of one of the large right field openings when she was struck in the eye by a ball hit during batting practice.

Appellant's evidence established that the stadium's structure requires pedestrians interested in looking out onto the playing field to stop or to divert their attention away from the path of the concourse. Appellant testified that as she entered the right field area of the concourse, she directed her attention away from the walkway, approached one of the right field openings and scanned the playing field. She testified that, although she saw some activity on the field, she was not aware that batting practice had begun and did not see home plate.*fn3 After this stop, she decided not to continue around the walkway, but to walk back to get some food in the "concession" concourse. Appellant turned away from the field of play, started back, and almost immediately heard a cry of "Watch!" As she turned, again, toward the

[ 483 Pa. Page 80]

    field, she was struck in the eye by a batted ball. Appellant testified, in addition, that she was a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates and that she had attended many of the "home" games played at Forbes Field, the Pirates' former stadium. The day she was injured marked her first visit to Three Rivers Stadium. She testified that in Forbes Field patrons were not exposed to batted balls until they had left the walkways and emerged onto ramps in the seating area.

In response to appellant's case, appellees presented no evidence. Instead, they moved for both nonsuits and directed verdicts. The trial court denied the motions and submitted the case to the jury. After the jury's verdict for appellant, the trial court denied appellees' motions for judgments notwithstanding the verdict.

On appeal, a majority of the Superior Court held that appellant failed to meet her burden of proving negligence and that the trial court erred in denying the motions for judgments n. o. v. Judge Spaeth filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part which Judge Hoffman joined. Judge Spaeth agreed with the result as to the Pittsburgh Athletic Co., Inc. He concluded, however, that appellant presented ...


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