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Post v. Manitowoc Engineering Corp.

Decided: June 21, 1965.

THERESA POST, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS ADMINISTRATRIX AD PROSEQUENDUM OF THE ESTATE OF JOHN POST, JR., DECEASED; CARMELLA LENA FRESCO WILEY, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS ADMINISTRATRIX AD PROSEQUENDUM OF THE ESTATE OF JAMES D. WILEY, DECEASED, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
MANITOWOC ENGINEERING CORPORATION, A WISCONSIN CORPORATION, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT



Goldmann, Sullivan and Labrecque. The opinion of the court was delivered by Sullivan, J.A.D.

Sullivan

This is an action for wrongful death.

John Post and James D. Wiley were employed as iron workers by the Lehigh Construction Co., which was building a bridge over the Delaware River at Scudder's Falls. While working on an island in the river within the Pennsylvania border, they were killed when a crane being used on the job collapsed and crushed them.

The instant suit was filed by their widows under the Pennsylvania wrongful death statute (12 P.S. ยง 1601 et seq.) charging defendant as the manufacturer of the crane with negligence and breach of warranty. Prior to trial the warranty counts were dismissed on defendant's motion. The negligence counts were tried before a jury which returned a unanimous verdict of no cause for action. Judgment was entered accordingly. Plaintiffs appeal from the whole of the judgment, including the dismissal of the warranty counts, as well as from the order of the trial court denying plaintiffs' motion for a new trial.

The crane had been manufactured by defendant and sold to Lehigh Construction Co., which was using it in the bridge building operation. The crane was movable and operated on

tank type crawlers or treads. It had a 100' boom and, operating at an 18' radius, had a rated capacity of 90,000 pounds according to the capacity chart issued by defendant.

The accident occurred on June 30, 1959. A large girder had been transported to the island by a pole truck and the crane was used to lift the girder from the truck. The load being lifted, including equipment, was approximately 83,000 pounds. The operator of the crane, after lifting the load, then started to move the crane with the suspended girder. The crane had traveled about 20 feet when the right crawler settled in the dirt. The operator stopped the crane and was about to lower the girder when the boom buckled and collapsed crushing decedents.

Plaintiffs charged that the crane was negligently designed, constructed, tested and manufactured. Plaintiffs' experts testified that a properly designed and manufactured crane would have allowed for some operating variations from an absolutely level base, and that the amount of the settlement of the right crawler which took place, without more, was not enough to have caused the boom to buckle. Among the deficiencies which plaintiffs' experts found in the design and manufacture of the crane in question were flattening of the ends of the lacing bars, inadequate and improper welding, use of a steel which was not designed for welding, improper arrangement of the lacing bars, lack of proper inspection and testing. They also testified that the capacity chart issued by defendant for its cranes rated the boom by column strength rather than by tipping load, and this was not in accordance with good standards of the industry. In effect, it was claimed that a properly constructed crane would tip first rather than buckle, thereby warning the operator of impending danger.

Generally speaking, the boom of the crane consists of the chords or columns which run lengthwise and form the outline of the boom. Lacing bars are short pieces of metal braces which run at an angle between two chords. They are attached to the chords on the four sides of the boom in a symmetrical pattern called lacing. Inside the framework formed by the

chords and lacing bars are cross support braces running diagonally between the chords.

Defendant's contention was that the crane buckled and collapsed not as the result of faulty design or construction, but rather due to the negligent operation thereof on soft and sandy ground. This in turn caused the right crawler to settle and the heavy load to swing over, thereby subjecting the boom to a lateral strain beyond its capacity to withstand. According to defendant, cranes are ...


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