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Officer DS’s memo book were marked for identification

The first questions for you to determine are whether the condition of the bus steps at the point where plaintiff fell were such that the common carrier, through its employer, the bus driver, should have reasonably anticipated unusual danger to passengers from its continued use, and, secondly, whether the common carrier, through its bus driver, knew or, in the exercise of reasonable care, should have known of the condition.

In urging reversal of the jury’s verdict in favor of defendant, plaintiff contends that the redaction of the observations of the bus steps by the police officer and the dispatcher, made in the regular course of business, was erroneous and prejudicial to plaintiff. She also argues that the court improperly charged that before the jury could find negligence on the part of the defendant, it first had to determine that the steps were unusually dangerous.

Some of the pages of Officer DS’s memo book were marked for identification and read to the jury. In addition, the Aided Report and Injury Report prepared by him were admitted into evidence. These reports were clearly made in the regular course of business and were admissible, yet the trial court, while properly allowing the jury to examine these reports, nonetheless excised from the officer’s Accident Report the statement that “Aided was passenger on bus. Upon leaving the bus, which was at the bus stop, she fell down three exit steps that had slush on them. Also, the incline of road caused bus to lean excessively.” The court also redacted from the officer’s memo book the comment that “Bus on incline at Bus Stop causing steps to be steep.” The dispatcher’s notation that “on inspection of bus, I found steps of stairwell covered with slush. Slush removed and bus returned to service” was similarly redacted.

All of these entries were made in the regular course of business, and it was the duty of both the police officer and the dispatcher to include them in their reports. The references with respect to both the slush present on the steps and the position of the bus were, furthermore, derived from the personal observations of the dispatcher and the police officer and were not hearsay elicited from some unknown informant. Therefore, the court was not warranted in directing that the foregoing statements be redacted. Nor can it be held that any error in redacting them was harmless since the dispute in this case specifically involves the condition of the stairwell, the amount of snow and slush thereon and the degree of defendant’s responsibility for the accident. Certainly, there is no question that plaintiff did, in fact, fall on the front steps as she was in the process of disembarking from the bus.

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