Appeals from the Orders of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in the cases of Carol Wyke and Kathleen Wyke v. Ruth Trzyna Ward et al. and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, No. GD 79-27839; Ruth Trzyna Ward, Administratrix of the Estate of Thaddeus T. Trzyna, Jr., Deceased v. Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and Robert Elliot, et al., No. GD 79-29874; Ruth Trzyna Ward, Administratrix of the Estate of Thaddeus T. Trzyna, Jr., Deceased v. Robert Elliot, et al. and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, No. GD 80-01659; and Robert Kozub and Donna Kozub, his wife v. Ruth Trzyna Ward et al., No. GD 80-28370, dated December 17, 1982.
Thomas L. Cooper, Gilardi & Cooper, P.A., for appellants, Carol Wyke and Kathleen Wyke.
Gary Kalmeyer, Kalmeyer and Kalmeyer, for appellants, Robert Kozub and Donna Kozub, his wife.
Felix J. DeGuilio, for appellant/appellee, Ruth Trzyna Ward, Administratrix of the Estate of Thaddeus T. Trzyna, Jr., Deceased.
Carl W. Brueck, Jr., for appellees Robert Elliot, Joseph Giglio, Robert Kozub, Jerry T. Koberna and Aluma Products Co.
John G. Eidemueller, Jr., Deputy Attorney General, with him Herbert L. Olivieri, Chief of Tort Litigation, and LeRoy S. Zimmerman, Attorney General, for appellee, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
Judges Rogers, Barry and Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Barry.
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These appeals result from a final order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, dated December 17, 1982, which denied motions for new trials filed by appellants, Carol Wyke, Kathleen Wyke, Robert Kozub, Donna Kozub and Ruth Trzyna Ward, Administratrix of the Estate of Thaddeus Trzyna, deceased.
On May 17, 1979, a multiple motor vehicle accident occurred at the intersection of Route 60 and Cliff Mine Road, Allegheny County. Route 60, at the time of the accident, was a highway of four lanes, two north bound and two south bound, which provided the main access between downtown Pittsburgh and the Greater Pittsburgh International Airport. Except for the intersection where the accident occurred, the north bound and south bound lanes were divided by an eight foot wide medial strip. Cliff Mine Road is a two-lane road which forms a T-intersection
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with Route 60, entering the latter road on its west side. Traffic travelling north on Route 60 was permitted to make a left turn across the south bound lanes of Route 60 to proceed in a westerly direction on Cliff Mine Road. At this intersection, a paved stretch of road eight feet wide by 130 feet long allowed these left turns.
The posted speed limit on Route 60 was fifty-five miles per hour. There was no traffic light at the intersection in question and a person making a left turn had to do so from the left passing lane since there was no separate left turn lane. At a distance of 750 feet south of the intersection on Route 60 there was a sign designating the speed limit at forty miles per hour; at 250 feet south was another sign indicating a T-intersection ahead.
At the time of the accident, appellants Robert and Donna Kozub were in their car approaching the intersection travelling south in the right lane on Route 60. Appellants Carol and Kathleen Wyke were passengers in a car driven by Joseph Giglio in the left lane which was approximately abreast with Kozub's automobile.
As these autos approached the intersection, an automobile driven by Robert Elliot was stopped in the left passing lane of the north bound lanes of Route 60, with his left turn signal on, ready to make a left turn onto Cliff Mine Road. Mr. Elliot testified that ten per cent of his car was in the paved medial area, thereby leaving ninety percent of the car projecting into the north bound passing lane of Route 60. At that time, a van driven by Thaddeus Trzyna, in a north bound lane, crossed over the paved medial strip into the south bound lanes and collided with both automobiles in which appellants were travelling. Trzyna was thrown from the van and killed. Shortly
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thereafter, a tractor-trailer driven by Jerry Koberna, in a south bound lane of Route 60, behind the Giglio vehicle, collided with the rear of that automobile. According to testimony of Mr. Elliot, whose car was not struck in any manner, immediately after the impact between the Trzyna van and the Giglio automobile, a flat-bed truck passed the Elliot vehicle in the right-hand lane of the north bound lanes of Route 60.*fn1
The Wykes sued Ruth Trzyna Ward, Administratrix for the Estate of Thaddeus Trzyna (Estate), William Engleman, Trzyna's employer at the time of the accident, Jerry Koberna and his employer, Aluma Products Co. The latter, subsequently, joined the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (DOT) as an additional defendant. The Kozubs sued all of the aforementioned defendants. The Estate of Trzyna sued Robert Kozub, Joseph Giglio, Robert Elliot, Jerry Koberna and his employer, Aluma Products Co. Aluma Products Co., in the Wyke lawsuit, joined DOT as an additional defendant. In a separate suit, the Estate sued DOT.
All lawsuits were consolidated for trial which were tried on the issue of liability alone. During the course of trial, the plaintiffs attempted to offer evidence against DOT, but for a variety of reasons, the trial court refused to allow the admission of any of this evidence. As a result, the trial court directed verdicts for DOT in all suits in which it was a defendant. The trial court also directed verdicts for all defendants in those cases where the Estate of Trzyna was the plaintiff. Post-verdict motions, filed
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by all present appellants, were denied by the court en banc and these appeals followed.
While four separate appeals have been filed, we are presented with only two issues. First, the Kozubs, the Wykes and the Estate of Trzyna claim that the trial court erred in refusing to allow the admission of the proffered evidence against DOT, which necessarily culminated in verdicts in DOT's favor. Second, the Estate of Trzyna claims that the trial court erred in directing verdicts against the Estate when it ruled that Robert Elliot had not been negligent as a matter of law.
All of the appellants in these cases allege that the trial court erred in excluding all evidence relating to DOT's potential liability. Appellants admit that entry of directed verdicts for DOT was proper if the trial court's ruling excluding the evidence was correct. If, however, the trial court excluded proper evidence, a new trial is required. Lambert v. Durallium Products Corp., 364 Pa. 284, 72 A.2d 66 (1950); Eldridge v. Melcher, 226 Pa. Superior Ct. 381, 313 A.2d 750 (1973).
At trial, plaintiff offered the following: (1) evidence compiled by DOT of 177 accidents at this intersection between 1960 and 1980; (2) letters from various individuals to DOT complaining about the frequency of accidents at the intersection and asking that DOT take some steps to correct the problem (either close the crossover, install a traffic signal or build a separate left hand turn lane); (3) a reply to one of these letter writers from the Secretary of Transportation acknowledging that the intersection was unsafe and describing plans to build a separate left-turn ...