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GERALD W. VERNON AND NANCY VERNON v. GEORGE STASH AND SHARON STASH V. CASTRIOTA CHEVROLET AND GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION (TWO CASES). APPEAL GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION. APPEAL CASTRIOTA CHEVROLET (10/05/87)

filed: October 5, 1987.

GERALD W. VERNON AND NANCY VERNON, HIS WIFE
v.
GEORGE STASH AND SHARON STASH V. CASTRIOTA CHEVROLET AND GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION (TWO CASES). APPEAL OF GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION. APPEAL OF CASTRIOTA CHEVROLET



Appeal from Judgment of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Allegheny County, No. G.D. 83-5589, Issue No. 122599. Appeals from Judgments of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Allegheny County, No. G.D. 83-5589.

COUNSEL

William A. Pietragallo, Pittsburgh, for General Motors, appellant (at 1145) and appellee (at 1195 and 1226).

Arthur J. Murphy, Jr., Pittsburgh, for Castriota, appellant (at 1195 and 1226) and appellee (at 1145).

Paul L. Hammer and Edgar M. Snyder, Pittsburgh, for Vernon, appellees.

Herman C. Kimpel, Pittsburgh, for Stash, appellees.

Wieand, Kelly and Popovich, JJ.

Author: Wieand

[ 367 Pa. Super. Page 40]

Gerald Vernon was injured by a driverless 1982 Chevrolet Cavalier which rolled down a hill and careened into a dwelling house where he was a guest. Sharon Stash was the owner of the Chevrolet; her father, George Stash, had parked the car; Castriota Chevrolet (Castriota) had sold the car; and General Motors Corporation (GM) had manufactured the vehicle. In an action by Vernon to recover damages, the jury found that the Chevrolet had been defective and that Castriota and George Stash had been negligent. The jury found further, however, that the only substantial factor in causing the accident had been the defective condition of the vehicle. The jury awarded damages to Vernon in the amount of $178,000.00 and to his wife for loss of consortium in the amount of $6,000.00. The trial court molded the verdicts to add damages for delay and held that Castriota was entitled to indemnification from GM. Both Castriota and GM appealed.

The essential facts are as follows. On September 17, 1981, Sharon Stash purchased a new, 1982 Chevrolet Cavalier from Castriota Chevrolet. Within a week she had returned

[ 367 Pa. Super. Page 41]

    the vehicle to Castriota's service department with a complaint that it would "jump" out of gear. Although mechanics employed by Castriota adjusted the car's linkage, Stash continued to experience difficulties with the automobile's transmission. On October 13, 1981, Stash again returned the Cavalier to Castriota. To remedy the problem, Castriota this time removed the car's transmission, replaced the gears and synchronizer, and installed various other parts. Several weeks later, Stash drove the automobile to a local restaurant, parked the car in first gear, applied the hand brake, and went inside. Fifteen minutes later, she learned that the car had drifted out of the parking lot of the restaurant and had rolled into an adjoining street.

On December 30, 1981, Sharon's father, George Stash, drove the car to work. When he returned home, he parked the car on the hill in front of his residence. The manual gear shift, according to his testimony, had been placed in second gear, and the emergency hand brake had been set. Later that evening, he was informed that the vehicle had rolled down the hill and had crashed into a neighbor's residence where it injured Gerald Vernon. A police officer who inspected the automobile at the scene of the accident found the gear shift in the neutral position and the parking brake fully set. With the hand brake still engaged, the vehicle was extricated from the house by a tow truck. When the winch of the tow truck was removed, the Stash vehicle again rolled away. It was stopped only after a bystander entered the vehicle and applied the foot brake.

The case was submitted to the jury on special interrogatories. Those interrogatories and the jury's responses thereto were as follows:

TO THE JURY:

Based upon the preponderance of the evidence, answer the following Interrogatories which have been propounded to you pursuant to the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure:

SECTION A:

[ 367 Pa. Super. Page 421]

. Was defendant George Stash negligent in the operation and parking of the involved Chevrolet Cavalier automobile on December 30, 1981?

YES X

NO

2. If so, was his negligence a substantial factor in bringing about the harm to the plaintiffs?

YES

NO X

SECTION B:

1. Was defendant Sharon Stash negligent in the operation and ownership of the involved 1982 Chevrolet Cavalier automobile?

YES

NO X

2. If so, was her negligence a substantial factor in bringing about the harm to the plaintiffs?

YES

NO X

SECTION C:

1. Was Castriota Chevrolet negligent in failing to detect any defect in the design or manufacture of the subject ...


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