On appeal from the Supreme Court.
For the appellant Joseph Monaco et al., Ward & McGinnis and Louis C. Friedman (Peter J. McGinnis, of counsel).
For the appellant Abe Stahl et al., Feder & Rinzler (Jack Rinzler, of counsel).
For the respondent County of Bergen, Winne & Banta (Walter G. Winne, of counsel).
For the respondent County of Passaic, Charles C. Stalter.
For John Olczak, administrator ad prosequendum, &c., et al., as amicus curice, John G. Dluhy.
Joining in the brief as attorneys for other plaintiffs: David T. Wilentz, Manfield G. Amlicke, Cole, Morrill & Nadell, Winthrop Watson, Davies & Davies, John O. McGuire, Joseph Teich, Lee M. Skolkin, August A. Azzolino and Riskin & Riskin.
The opinion of the court was delivered by
OLIPHANT, J. These cases arose as the result of an automobile bus accident which occurred March 20th, 1944, at 8:00 A.M., on the Market Street bridge over the Passaic River in which nineteen persons lost their lives.
The suits were brought by duly appointed administrators ad prosequendum against the Comfort Bus Line, Inc., the owner of the bus, and the Counties of Bergen and Passaic who had jointly constructed the bridge on which the bus was traveling. The cases, by order of the trial judge and with
the consent of counsel for all parties, were consolidated for trial. This resulted in directed verdicts in favor of the respondents at the close of the case and of verdicts by the jury of no cause of action in favor of the Comfort Bus Line, Inc., against both plaintiffs. A new trial was granted the plaintiffs as against the bus line. These appeals are taken from the action of the trial court with respect to the suit against the two counties.
The facts, in brief, disclose the following with respect to the happening of the accident. The plaintiffs' intestates were passengers for hire on the bus which was proceeding over the bridge at a speed of from five to twenty-five miles per hour when it, without explanation as to cause, suddenly turned at a forty-five degree angle, mounted the curb and went over the pedestrian's sidewalk, struck a pedestrian on that sidewalk, crashed into the bridge rail and plunged into the river. The wheels of the bus were turning as it left the bridge and it was in second gear when raised from the river. At the time of the accident there was a slight fall of snow on the roadway. The bridge, construction of which was begun in 1929 and finished in 1931, was of the Rall bascule type and was about twenty feet above the water. It was composed of three sections, two of which were fixed spans, and a center one that was movable and could be raised like a cellar door. The roadway of the bridge used for vehicular traffic was thirty feet wide and on each side of this roadway, separated therefrom by a wooden curb was a pedestrian sidewalk ten feet wide. On the outer side of each sidewalk was a guard rail. The standard specifications of the American Association of Highway Officials with respect to bridge construction called for a curbing ...