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Taylor v. Public Service Interstate Transportation Co.

Decided: April 17, 1951.

EMILY B. TAYLOR, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
PUBLIC SERVICE INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION COMPANY AND CHARLES Y. SHANER, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS, AND JEWETT J. CAVES, DEFENDANT. MARION FISHER SHAGG AND JOHN CONRAD SHAGG, HER HUSBAND, PLAINTIFFS-RESPONDENTS, V. PUBLIC SERVICE INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION COMPANY AND CHARLES Y. SHANER, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS, AND JEWETT J. CAVES, DEFENDANT



McGeehan, Jayne and Wm. J. Brennan, Jr. The opinion of the court was delivered by Jayne, J.A.D.

Jayne

The general supervisory power of the appellate tribunal which enables it to examine the propriety of jury verdicts and the consequent judgments founded upon them is essentially remedial in character. The power is not exercised with a view of supplanting the appropriate function of the jury. It continues to be preeminently the mission of the jury to resolve the credibility of the testimony of the witnesses, to settle the facts, and to determine the inferences which ought to be logically and legitimately drawn from them. A verdict founded upon logical and legitimate inferences from facts established by evidence is normally conclusive. Smith v. P. Lorillard Co. , 67 N.J.L. 361 (Sup. Ct. 1902). But where neither the facts nor the permissible inferences from them vindicate the verdict and it is manifest that the verdict was fabricated by the influences of sympathy, or passion, or prejudice, or based upon mistake, it must in the course of the administration of justice be annulled. Bowen v. Healy's, Inc. , 16 N.J. Misc. R. 113, 115 (Cir. Ct. 1938). "On a review of any cause involving issues of fact determined by the verdict of a jury, the verdict, if contrary to the weight of the evidence, shall be set aside." Rules 1:2-20; 4:2-6.

It was storming on Tuesday morning, January 13, 1948. A screen of snow and sleet somewhat decreased the range of visibility and an inch or two of slush overspread the highway as the defendant, the Public Service Interstate Transportation Company, through the agency of its driver, Charles Shaner, operated its passenger bus westerly on River Road in the Township of Pennsauken, Camden County. About 9:30 A.M. the bus, although it was proceeding along the northerly lane of the highway, suddenly came into collision in that lane

with the right side of a Ford automobile driven by the defendant Jewett Caves.

Among the several passengers in the bus were the female plaintiffs who suffered bodily injuries in the mishap. The verdict rendered at the conclusion of the trial in which the actions were consolidated awarded Mrs. Taylor $3,000 damages, Mrs. Shagg $1,000, and Mr. Shagg, who sued per quod , $1,000, and placed the liability upon the bus company and its driver, exonerating the driver of the automobile. The plaintiffs based their causes of action upon an implication of negligence on the part of the common carrier. Shay v. Camden & Suburban Ry. Co. , 66 N.J.L. 334 (E. & A. 1901).

Recognizing that the bus and the automobile were proceeding in opposite directions on River Road, the proximate and efficient cause of the collision is clearly intelligible. The initial clue is supplied by the pre-trial order which states: "Defendant, Caves, asserts that while operating his car in back of the tractor-trailer, his car went into a spin prior to the collision."

The following questions and answers extracted from the testimony of Caves are informational:

"Q. And when you were right behind the tractor-trailer, your automobile went into a skid, didn't it? A. I thought it did, yes, sir.

Q. How fast were you going when you started to skid? A. That I couldn't say. It wasn't as fast as I was going before.

Q. You didn't see any bus at any time? A. No, sir.

Q. Do you remember anything that happened from the time you went into the skid until you were being taken ...


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