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ARTHUR BUCCHIANERI v. EQUITABLE GAS COMPANY (03/01/85)

filed: March 1, 1985.

ARTHUR BUCCHIANERI, AS EXECUTOR OF THE ESTATE OF ELEANOR BUCCHIANERI, DECEASED,
v.
EQUITABLE GAS COMPANY, APPELLANT, V. GANNETT-FLEMMING CORDRY AND CARPENTER, INC., BERNARD BUCCHIANERI, RENDA CONSTRUCTION COMPANY, CARROLL TOWNSHIP SEWAGE AUTHORITY AND ARTHUR BUCCHIANERI. ARTURO BUCCHIANERI V. EQUITABLE GAS COMPANY, APPELLANT, V. GANNETT-FLEMMING CORDRY AND CARPENTER, INC., WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA WATER COMPANY, BERNARD BUCCHIANERI, RENDA CONSTRUCTION COMPANY, AND CARROLL TOWNSHIP SEWAGE AUTHORITY



No. 00190 PITTSBURGH, 1983, Appeal from the Judgment Entered January 11, 1983, in the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Washington County, No. 66 March Term, 1978. No. 00191 PITTSBURGH, 1983, Appeal from the Judgment Entered January 11, 1983 in the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Washington County, No. 335 April Term, 1977A.

COUNSEL

William R. Tighe, Jr., Pittsburgh, for appellant.

George, Retos, Jr., Washington, for Arthur Bucchianeri, appellee.

Rowley, Johnson and Hester, JJ.

Author: Per Curiam

[ 341 Pa. Super. Page 322]

This consolidated appeal is from judgments of the Court of Common Pleas of Washington County entered January 11, 1983. The underlying basis for the cause of action was a natural gas explosion which occurred in Carroll Township, Washington County on March 13, 1977. Eleanor Bucchianeri died as a result of the explosion. Her brother-in-law, Arturo Bucchianeri, was injured and his home destroyed.

Both Arturo Bucchianeri and Arthur Bucchianeri, executor of the estate of Eleanor Bucchianeri, filed actions against appellant, Equitable Gas. In each action, appellant then joined as additional defendants-appellees Gannett-Flemming Cordry and Carpenter, Inc., (hereinafter Gannett-Flemming), Bernard Bucchianeri, and Renda Construction

[ 341 Pa. Super. Page 323]

Company (hereinafter Renda). Following a jury trial, appellant was found to be 90% negligent. The Estate of Arturo Bucchianeri was found to be 10% negligent.*fn1 Verdicts were rendered in favor of Gannett-Flemming and Renda and the other additional-defendant appellees. The court had directed that a verdict be entered on behalf of Bernard Bucchianeri. Damages were assessed by a jury in the Arturo Bucchianeri case in the amount of $130,000.00 and in the case of Eleanor Bucchianeri in the amount of $73,000.00.

Appellant filed post-verdict motions, alleging various trial errors as a basis for a new trial. Said motions were denied, and judgments entered on the verdicts. Appellant thereafter perfected this appeal.

Appellant avers that the trial court committed six errors, and that the verdicts were excessive. Although we will address all the alleged errors, we find the first two assignments of error are crucial and prove to be dispositive. We reverse and remand for a new trial.

Initially, appellant contends that the trial court erroneously permitted appellees' witness, Carl Natale, who was ruled to be not qualified as an expert, to testify as to his expert opinion. Mr. Natale examined the scene following the explosion and conducted detailed interviews, tests, and measurements. He inspected the interior and exterior of the premises and reviewed numerous photographs of the scene which were taken immediately after the explosion. The trial judge informed appellees' counsel that he could ask Mr. Natale to state any physical facts helpful to him. However, the court cautioned counsel not to ask for "an opinion, or a conclusion, or a theory, or a concept." The judge observed, "[Mr. Natale] has taken pictures; he has measured; ...


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