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LAWRENCE J. WALSH AND CARMELLA WALSH v. PENNSYLVANIA GAS & WATER COMPANY (06/18/82)

filed: June 18, 1982.

LAWRENCE J. WALSH AND CARMELLA WALSH
v.
PENNSYLVANIA GAS & WATER COMPANY, APPELLANT. DANIEL TUCKER AND MARY TUCKER V. PENNSYLVANIA GAS & WATER COMPANY, APPELLANT



No. 673 Philadelphia, 1980, No. 674 Philadelphia, 1980, Appeal from the Judgments of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Actions-Law, of Lackawanna County at Nos. 418 and 419 March Term 1978.

COUNSEL

Joseph E. Gallagher, Scranton, for appellant.

Roger Mattes, Scranton, for appellees.

Wickersham, Van der Voort and Lipez, JJ.

Author: Wickersham

[ 303 Pa. Super. Page 54]

On March 3, 1978 the appellees herein, Lawrence J. and Carmella Walsh and Daniel and Mary Tucker, filed a complaint in assumpsit and trespass for personal injuries and property damage allegedly caused by the explosion of a gas range Pennsylvania Gas & Water Company (hereinafter Company) sold to the Walshes. The two cases were consolidated for trial which began on March 19, 1979 before the Honorable James M. Munley and a jury. The jury found verdicts for the Walshes in the amount of $50,000 and for the Tuckers in the amount of $10,000. In addition to the general finding for the plaintiffs the jury responded to special interrogatories and found that Company breached an implied warranty of merchantability to the plaintiffs. The jury further found that Company was not liable on a common law negligence theory nor on a products liability theory.

On April 9, 1979 Company filed motions requesting a judgment N.O.V. or a new trial. The new trial was requested on the ground that the answers of the jury to the special interrogatories were inconsistent with the verdicts. Company also requested the court to mold the verdict returned so that it would be in its favor. In an opinion by Judge

[ 303 Pa. Super. Page 55]

Munley dated January 21, 1980, the lower court en banc (consisting of Judges Munley, James J. Walsh and Edwin M. Kosik) denied the motions. Judgment was docketed and this appeal followed.

Trial testimony indicated that Lawrence J. Walsh and his wife, Carmella, lived at 413 Taylor Avenue in Scranton, Pennsylvania. They owned the building at 413-415 Taylor Avenue and rented one-half of the duplex to Mr. Walsh's sister Mary Tucker and her husband, Daniel. In January of 1973, the Walshes bought a Roper gas range from Company who installed the range in the Walsh kitchen. After installation, the Walshes had problems with their appliance. The pilot light went out frequently and there was often a strong odor of gas in the house. Record at 13. The oven cracked and one of the glass panels in the oven door shattered. Record at 13-14.

On March 8, 1976, there was a fire in the Walsh kitchen. Mrs. Walsh testified that the stove exploded throwing her across the room. Record at 132. The explosion and subsequent fire so damaged the building at 413-415 Taylor Avenue that the Walsh and Tucker families moved out of the premises. Plaintiffs' expert witness testified that the rear of the appliance continually leaked gas.

The jury retired with a set of special interrogatories. The questions drafted by Company were as follows:

Special Interrogatories to the Jury

Do you find in favor of the plaintiffs? Yes (X) No( )

If your answer is no, disregard the remaining questions. If your answer is yes, ...


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