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JOHN HAAS AND CATHERINE HAAS v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (02/02/88)

decided: February 2, 1988.

JOHN HAAS AND CATHERINE HAAS, HIS WIFE, APPELLANTS
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, in the case of John and Catherine Haas v. Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, No. 80-10855.

COUNSEL

William D. Marvin, with him, Morris M. Shuster, Morris M. Shuster, P.C., for appellants.

Alexis L. Barbieri, Deputy Attorney General, with her, LeRoy S. Zimmerman, Attorney General, for appellee.

Judges Craig, Barry, and Senior Judge Narick, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Senior Judge Narick.

Author: Narick

[ 113 Pa. Commw. Page 219]

This is an appeal by John Haas and Catherine Haas, his wife (Appellants) from a decision of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County denying their motion for a new trial. We affirm.

On August 12, 1980, Appellants instituted a civil action against the Department of Transportation (DOT) for injuries suffered by John Haas while a passenger in a vehicle on December 20, 1978. The record reveals that this automobile accident occurred on Route 252 in Newtown Township, Delaware County when the vehicle in which John Haas was traveling lost control as it proceeded over a bridge overpass. A jury trial was held and

[ 113 Pa. Commw. Page 220]

Appellant presented two theories for the jury's consideration: (1) that DOT was negligent in failing to erect a "bridge freezes before road" warning sign in advance of the bridge and (2) that DOT was negligent in failing to salt the roadway. At the close of trial, special interrogatories were submitted to the jury for consideration. The jury responded to these interrogatories by concluding that DOT was not negligent with regard to its failure to erect a "bridge freezes before road" warning sign and in its actions regarding salting of the roadway. Appellants filed a motion for a new trial which was denied by the trial court. Hence, this appeal.

There are two questions raised by Appellants in their appeal: (1) whether evidence that DOT installed a warning sign within one year after the accident was erroneously excluded in that it was proffered to prove the feasibility of posting such a sign and the prior nonexistence of the sign; and (2) whether the jury's conclusion that DOT was not negligent in its failure to post a warning sign was against the weight of the evidence.*fn1

Initially, we note that the grant or denial of a new trial is within the discretion of a trial judge, and a reversal is warranted only when there has been a manifest abuse of discretion or a clear error of law. Gallo v. Redevelopment Authority of the City of Sharon, 19 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 71, 339 A.2d 165 (1975). A new trial will not be granted where insufficient evidence is alleged unless the verdict is so contrary to the weight of the evidence that it shocks one's sense of justice. Billings v. Upper Merion Township Authority, 44 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 622, 405 A.2d 967 (1979). In evaluating the sufficiency of the evidence, consideration must be given

[ 113 Pa. Commw. Page 221]

    in a light most favorable to the party prevailing below. Billings. A new trial will not be granted because of a conflict in testimony, because the trial judge could have arrived at a different conclusion or because the jury could have drawn different conclusions or inferences from the evidence. See Thompson v. City of Philadelphia, 507 Pa. 592, 493 A.2d 669 (1985); Department of Transportation v. O'Neill Steel Co., Inc., 90 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 39, 493 A.2d 797 (1985), decision following remand, 102 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 324, 518 A.2d 324 (1986). Exclusion of evidence is also not grounds for a new trial where said evidence would not have affected the verdict or where other evidence of the same fact was ...


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