NO. 1752 Philadelphia, 1983, Appeal from the Judgment entered June 10, 1983, in the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County, Civil, No. 478 November Term.
Paul A. Barrett, Scranton, for appellants.
Martin J. Meyer, Kingston, for appellee.
Brosky, Wieand and McEwen, JJ.
[ 330 Pa. Super. Page 287]
This case arose after an apartment building owned by the appellants was destroyed by fire resulting in the death of two women who were tenants in the building. Appellee instituted this action on behalf of the estates of the dead women and alleged that appellants were negligent in their failure to provide adequate means of escape from the building. After the jury returned a verdict in favor of both estates and the trial judge denied the appellants' Motions for a New Trial and for Judgment N.O.V., this appeal was commenced. Appellants present the following issues for our review:
(1) whether the trial court erred when it precluded appellants' expert witness from testifying as to the utility of
[ 330 Pa. Super. Page 288]
additional means of emergency egress from the apartment building owned by appellants.
(2) whether the trial court erred when it precluded appellant from cross-examining appellee's expert witness concerning the institution where one of the decedents obtained her Graduate Equivalency Diploma.
(3) whether the trial court was in error when it precluded evidence concerning the incendiary nature of the instant fire.
(4) whether the trial court erred when it permitted appellee's expert to testify as to employment opportunities for switchboard operators in northeastern Pennsylvania.
(5) whether the trial court erred when it permitted a tenant of the destroyed building to testify that he heard women screaming inside the burning building.
(6) whether the trial court erred when it excluded from evidence a letter from a building inspector concerning the premises here in question.
(7) whether the trial court was in error when it commented to the jury regarding the prejudicial nature of certain photographs.
The record demonstrates the painstaking effort of the distinguished President Judge Edwin M. Kosik to weigh carefully the difficult issues presented so as to insure a fair trial of this serious and complex case. While we reject as meritless, with but one exception, the assertions of appellant upon each of these issues, we are constrained to order a new trial by reason of our holding upon that one issue.
Appellants first contend that the trial court erred prejudicially when it prevented their expert witness from testifying as to whether any further means of emergency egress would have aided the decedents under the circumstances. We note initially:
Unless there is a substantial reason therefor, a new trial should not be granted in a negligence case . . . In an appeal from a jury trial, where the moving party alleges reversible error he must show not only the existence of ...