Negligence – Proving Inviter’s Breach of Duty by Circumstantial Evidence

Plaintiff brought a negligence action for personal injuries suffered when she slipped on a spot of grease in the driveway of defendant’s railroad station. The evidence showed that the spot was at least one foot square and was covered with dust and dirt so that it resembled in color and texture the rest of the pavement. The evidence also indicated that vehicles often drove through and parked in the drive, and that there were no marks on the spot other than a deep skid mark left by plaintiff’s heel. The trial court allowed the jury to determine from this evidence that the spot had existed long enough for the defendant, in the exercise of due care, to find and remove it. The defendant’s motion for a judgment n.o.v. was overruled. The intermediate appellate court unanimously affirmed. On appeal, held, reversed. ”It is clear … that it could not be determined from any or all of the circumstances and at best it would only be a guess whether the grease spot was on the driveway 10 minutes, 10 hours or 10 days prior to the plaintiff’s accident.” Two judges dissented. Lanni v. Pennsylvania R. Co., (Pa. 1952) 88 A. (2d) 887 at 889.