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KATHRYN ELLIS AND RICHARD HECKMAN v. JEFFREY L. GRAVES (06/14/89)

filed: June 14, 1989.

KATHRYN ELLIS AND RICHARD HECKMAN, WIFE AND HUSBAND AND AS PARENTS AND NATURAL GUARDIANS OF JESSICA HECKMAN, A MINOR, APPELLANTS,
v.
JEFFREY L. GRAVES



Appeal from the Judgment Entered July 25, 1988, in the Court of Common Pleas of Cumberland County, Civil Division, at No. 1771 Civil 1987.

COUNSEL

Richard C. Angino, Harrisburg, for appellants.

Harvey Freedenberg, Harrisburg, for appellee.

Wieand, Popovich and Hester, JJ.

Author: Hester

[ 385 Pa. Super. Page 169]

Kathryn Ellis and Richard Heckman, wife and husband and the parents and natural guardians of Jessica Heckman, appeal from the judgment entered in the Court of Common Pleas of Cumberland County on July 25, 1988, following the denial of their post-trial motions. Appellants assert that the jury's verdict in this negligence action was contrary to the weight of the evidence and that the trial court improperly refused a requested instruction regarding imputed negligence.*fn1 For the reasons set forth below, we find that the second assertion is meritorous. Accordingly, we reverse and remand for a new trial.

At 9:15 p.m. on July 19, 1986, Richard Heckman, accompanied by his wife and minor daughter, turned his automobile into the intersection of the Carlisle Pike and Bernheisel Bridge Road in Silver Spring Township, where it collided with a motor vehicle driven by Jeffrey L. Graves. One year later, appellants initiated the present action. On February 15, 1988, the case went to trial. The following day the jury returned a defense verdict. Subsequently, appellants, who challenged among other things, the evidence supporting the jury's verdict and the court's denial of several of their points for charge, moved for a new trial. On July 25, 1988, after the court denied the requested relief, judgment was entered. This timely appeal followed.

[ 385 Pa. Super. Page 170]

The first witness to testify at trial was Corporal Gerald Steigelman of the Spring Township Police Department. Corporal Steigelman, who investigated the accident, testified as follows. The Carlisle Pike consists of two lanes for northbound traffic, two lanes for southbound traffic, and a left-turn lane in the center. Its intersection with Bernheisel Bridge Road is controlled by a traffic light and is not illuminated by streetlights. Finally, on that dark evening, there were no adverse weather conditions that affected the roadway in that area, which is both level and straight.

The next witnesses to testify were Jeffrey Graves and Richard Heckman. Their testimony was summarized adequately in the trial court's opinion.

The defendant [Mr. Graves] testified that he waited at the subject intersection for approximately five seconds before executing his left turn. While waiting, there was a van directly in front of and facing him executing a left turn from the center turn lane of the roadway. While there was initially some confusion about the lane from which the defendant turned, he testified at trial that he did so from the appropriate center lane. The defendant also testified that, before turning, he waited for a car travelling southbound to clear the intersection. Both the van and the car, observed by the defendant, had their headlights on. When the defendant executed his turn, he did not see the Heckman vehicle but, being nearly successful in completing his turn, was hit in the rear by it. Mr. Heckman, likewise, testified that he never saw Mr. Graves' vehicle though . . . he testified that his headlights were on. Mr. Heckman went on to relate that, following the collision, while his car was on the side of the roadway, he changed the position of the light switch so that only the parking lights were on. The defendant, Mr. Graves, testified that the day following the accident he want to the location where the Heckman vehicle had been towed and observed the light switch to be in the parking light position.

Trial court opinion, at 3-4. Based on this conflicting evidence, the jury rendered a ...


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