No. 355 PITTSBURGH, 1980, Appeal from Order and Judgment of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Allegheny County, No. GD 75-15269.
Thomas L. Cooper, Pittsburgh, for appellant.
Matthew R. Wimer, Pittsburgh, for appellee.
Hester, Johnson and Popovich, JJ.
[ 308 Pa. Super. Page 499]
At noon on May 16, 1975, on a sunny day, when road conditions were dry, the appellant, Joseph Chiodo, was operating his 1967 Chevy, Nova station wagon on Saw Mill Run Boulevard in the City of Pittsburgh. His vehicle was the first to stop in the right hand lane for the traffic light at the juncture of South Main Street and Saw Mill Run Boulevard. Another automobile and a pick-up truck were stopped immediately to the rear of appellant's vehicle in the same lane of traffic.
All three vehicles waited for a change in the light. Before the light changed, however, an eighteen-wheel tractor-trailer unit operated by Bruce Ezra, while acting within the scope of his employment with the appellee, slammed into the rear of the pick-up truck causing a chain reaction of impacts and pushing the appellant's station wagon into the center of the intersection.
[ 308 Pa. Super. Page 500]
As a result of the accident, the appellant's vehicle was damaged in excess of its fair market value. Furthermore, the appellant sustained injury to his head, neck and back which required medical treatment on a regular basis for a period in excess of one year and which prevented him from returning to work for approximately 15 months following the accident.
The appellee's driver was transporting a load of food at the time of the accident. In spite of checking the braking system on both the tractor and trailer at the beginning of his run at Logansport, Indiana, and finding it to perform soundly, the appellee's driver began to experience braking problems while descending the Parkway West in Pittsburgh, two or three miles prior to the scene of the accident.
As a result of the accident and injuries sustained therein, the appellant filed a trespass complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County on June 30, 1975. Following a trial by jury, a verdict was returned in favor of the appellee on September 25, 1979. A Motion for a New Trial was filed and subsequently denied. This appeal is taken from the Order denying the new trial and entry of judgment.
The appellant argues that the verdict was clearly against the weight of the evidence. He specifically alleges that the indisputable rear-end collision was "extremely strong evidence of negligence" and that the appellee failed to carry its burden of proving the defense of the "sudden emergency" doctrine rendering the court's jury instruction on the "sudden emergency" doctrine improper. We agree in part, and thereby reverse and remand for a new trial.
The "sudden emergency" doctrine is available as a defense to a defendant who suddenly and unexpectedly finds himself confronted with a perilous situation that permits no opportunity to assess the danger and respond appropriately. Carpenter v. Penn Central Transportation Co., 269 Pa. Super. 9, 409 A.2d ...