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Onufer v. Strout

Decided: January 31, 1936.

SUSIE ONUFER, ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF GEORGE ONUFER, DECEASED, AND EMIL ZAHURANSKY, PLAINTIFFS-RESPONDENTS,
v.
HELEN B. STROUT, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



On appeal from judgments of the Supreme Court, Bergen Circuit.

For the defendant-appellant, Charles Schmidt (Rupert F. Howlett, of counsel).

For the plaintiffs-respondents, Feder & Rinzler (John J. Breslin, Jr., and William V. Breslin, of counsel).

Wells

The opinion of the court was delivered by

WELLS, J. This action arose out of an accident which occurred on a public highway when an automobile, owned by Helen B. Strout and driven by Peter Shaffer, collided with an automobile owned and driven by George Onufer.

Suit was brought against both Helen B. Strout and Peter Shaffer by George Onufer and Emil Zahuransky, a passenger in the Onufer automobile, the former claiming damages for injuries to person and property and the latter seeking compensation for personal injuries sustained in the collision.

George Onufer died before the trial, from causes entirely disconnected with the accident, and the suit was continued by the administratrix of his estate.

Verdicts were rendered in favor of both plaintiffs against the defendant, Helen B. Strout, a voluntary nonsuit having been entered, after the summation of counsel and just before the charge of the court to the jury, as to the defendant Peter Shaffer.

There seems to be no dispute that Peter Shaffer was either intoxicated or asleep at the time of the accident and that his negligence was the sole cause of the collision.

The defendant, Helen B. Strout, appeals from the judgments entered against her and urges as the main ground for reversal that the court should have directed verdicts in her favor, it being contended that there was no evidence from which the jury could find that Shaffer was Helen B. Strout's agent at the time of the accident.

The evidence showed that the car was owned by the defendant, Helen B. Strout.

We have repeatedly held that "proof of defendant's ownership of an automobile driven on a public highway, raises a presumption of fact that such automobile was in the possession of the defendant, if not personally, then through his servant, the driver, and that such driver was acting within the scope of his employment. Both or either of these presumptions may be overcome by uncontradicted proof to the contrary; and if so overcome by uncontradicted proof that the ...


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