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EMILY SWARTLEY AND ROBERT SWARTLEY v. TREDYFFRIN EASTTOWN SCHOOL DISTRICT (06/05/81)

filed: June 5, 1981.

EMILY SWARTLEY AND ROBERT SWARTLEY, HER HUSBAND,
v.
TREDYFFRIN EASTTOWN SCHOOL DISTRICT, APPELLANT



No. 1991 October Term, 1979, Appeal from the Judgment and Order of Court of Common Pleas of Chester County, Civil Action, Law No. 31, December Term, 1976

COUNSEL

Joseph W. Kauffman, Media, for appellant.

Stephen Margolin, Philadelphia, for appellees.

Hester, Cavanaugh and Van der Voort, JJ. Hester, J., files a dissenting statement.

Author: Van Der Voort

[ 287 Pa. Super. Page 501]

This is an appeal by the Tredyffrin Easttown School District from a personal injury judgment against it for Fifty Thousand ($50,000) Dollars. The appellant contends that evidence was improperly admitted and the jury incorrectly instructed. We find no basis for either contention and affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

The circumstances of the injury to Emily Swartley are not in dispute. On September 11, 1975, at about 11:30 a. m., she went to the Devon Elementary School in the Tredyffrin Easttown School District in Devon, Pennsylvania, to pick up her five-year old son, Christopher. The child had been enrolled for one week and this was Mrs. Swartley's third trip to the school. All parents coming for their children were directed to wait inside a vestibule located just inside the main entrance to the school building. There were two classes of kindergarten students of about 25 members each

[ 287 Pa. Super. Page 502]

    which converged into the lobby at approximately the same dismissal time. There were approximately the same number of adults on hand to pick them up. When the children were dismissed, they walked in a line from their class rooms to the lobby where they were seated with their backs against the wall facing their parents in the vestibule. There they waited for their parents to come in and pick them up.

The vestibule in which the parents waited was approximately 12 feet deep and 16 feet wide. The lobby was somewhat larger, approximately 25 feet wide and 30 feet deep. The vestibule was enclosed by three doors separating it from the outdoors, and by another three doors separating the vestibule from the inner lobby. The three inner doors were glass paneled and wooden framed, each hinged on the right hand side.

Mrs. Swartley entered the vestibule at approximately 11:35 a. m. She moved well to the front of the vestibule and stood in close proximity to the middle door facing the lobby where the children would be assembled. Within a few minutes the vestibule was filled with parents standing shoulder to shoulder and with considerable jostling and hassling.

At about 11:40 a. m., a man dressed in a brown uniform and carrying several packages entered the vestibule from the street and worked his way through the crowd to one of the inner doors, and moved through the door into the lobby carrying his packages. In the process of working his way through the crowd, one of his packages jostled Mrs. Swartley, causing her to lose her balance. In order to prevent herself from falling, she reached out with her left hand and grabbed at the middle door for support. Unfortunately, her hand came to rest in the door jamb just as the door was closing, injuring the top portion of the fifth finger on her left hand.

At the time of the accident, Mrs. Swartley was employed at West Chester State College as an instructor of the flute. She had spent four years in study at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester and graduated with a Bachelor of ...


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