No. 3632 Philadelphia, 1982, Appeal from Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Delaware County, No. 77-12252.
Charles J. Bogdanoff, Philadelphia, for appellant.
Alexander A. DiSanti, Upper Darby, for appellees.
Wieand, Olszewski and Popovich, JJ. Olszewski, J., files a dissenting opinion.
[ 339 Pa. Super. Page 257]
In this action to recover for personal injuries sustained in a one vehicle accident allegedly caused by the defective front end assembly of a motorcycle, the trial court excluded evidence of a post-accident admission made by the plaintiff-cyclist that the accident had not been caused by a defective motorcycle but by his loss of control while travelling at 100 miles per hour. A jury returned a verdict in favor of the cyclist and against the manufacturer for $1,750,000.00, on which judgment was entered following denial of post-trial motions. On appeal, we reverse and remand for a new trial.
On October 30, 1976, James Bascelli and Dana Tegler were driving their chopper-style motorcycles on Route 291, a four lane divided highway in Delaware County, when
[ 339 Pa. Super. Page 258]
Bascelli lost control of his vehicle. His motorcycle veered to the left, jumped the medial strip, crossed two lanes for oncoming traffic, and crashed into the guardrail. Bascelli testified that prior to losing control of his motorcycle he had been travelling at a speed of 35-40 miles per hour. He said, and his evidence tended to show, that the handlebar assembly had loosened and that this was what had caused his loss of control. As a result of the accident Bascelli sustained serious injuries, including the loss of most of his right arm and multiple fractures of his left forearm.
The front end assembly had been manufactured by Randy, Inc., the appellant. It consisted of a handlebar, two risers and two cap screws. The assembly was sold to Bascelli with a container of Locktite, a screw-locking compound, in October, 1972, by East Coast Cycle Supply.*fn1 It was thereafter assembled and installed by Bascelli on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The risers were attached to two prongs of a fork extending upwards from the front wheel by cap screws or bolts. Bascelli's evidence tended to show that at the time of the accident the left cap screw measured only one inch in length, this being one-half inch shorter than the right cap screw. He contended that the left screw was defective because it extended only two or three threads beyond the end of the fork into which it was intended to fit.*fn2 It was also alleged that the assembly contained a design defect because it did not include a locking device to prevent a loosening of the screws. Evidence was produced which tended to show that a disengagement of the screw from the fork had impaired Bascelli's ability to steer the motorcycle.
During pre-trial depositions, Anthony Pierantozzi, the retailer of the front end assembly, described a conversation which he and Bascelli had had several months after the
[ 339 Pa. Super. Page 259]
accident. In that conversation, according to Pierantozzi, Bascelli said that "nothing [had] really happened to the front end . . ." and that the front end had begun to wobble and the bike had gone down while he was travelling at approximately 100 miles per hour. At trial, counsel for the manufacturer attempted to elicit Bascelli's admission from Pierantozzi to show that the accident had been caused by excessive speed and not because of a defective front end assembly. The trial court sustained an objection ...