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Lukasiewicz v. Haddad

Decided: January 30, 1953.

SIGMUND J. LUKASIEWICZ, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JAMES H. HADDAD, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Eastwood, Bigelow and Jayne. The opinion of the court was delivered by Jayne, J.A.D.

Jayne

[24 NJSuper Page 400] The plaintiff has a judgment against the defendant entered in accordance with the verdict of the jury awarding him the sum of $100,000 compensatory damages

for the bodily injuries and incidental losses he sustained in consequence of the occurrence of an automobile mishap on August 29, 1951 in Woodbury, Gloucester County. The plaintiff occupied the status of an invited passenger in an automobile owned and being operated by the defendant in a southerly direction on Salem Avenue or Salem Pike, near its intersection with Lincoln Street, where the vehicle proceeded off the westerly side of the highway and collided with a tree.

It can be immediately announced that in the existing state of the evidence we are of the opinion that the legal responsibility of the defendant for the occurrence of the collision was justifiably submitted to the jury for determination.

The predominant questions addressed to us for decision are: (a) is the award of damages so excessive as to manifestly indicate the dominant influences of mistake, partiality, prejudice or passion; (b) did the insinuations incorporated in the summation of counsel for the plaintiff improperly impart to the jury inadmissible and prejudicial information concerning the amount of the defendant's insurance coverage; and (c) did the trial judge commit error in his comment upon certain evidence during the course of his charge to the jury? The trial judge in response to an application for a new trial resolved those questions in the negative.

The testimony which the jury heard and presumably weighed and considered revealed that the plaintiff is a relatively young man, 37 years of age at the time of the trial. He has always been ambitious. The aspiration of his youth was to become a chemist. By means of his own exertions as an usher-manager in a theater and as a metallurgical observer in a steel mill he financed his education at the University of Pittsburgh, from which he graduated with a degree of Bachelor of Science in 1943. He forthwith accepted a position as a technician at the research laboratory of the Socony Vacuum Company at Paulsboro, New Jersey, where his sincerity, energy, and research capabilities soon became

noticeable. Indeed, he became the designated participating inventor in ten patents.

Not yet married, he resided with other matrimonially unattached employees of the laboratory in a house cooperatively maintained by them in Woodbury. Among the occupants was his friend, perhaps roommate, the defendant Haddad, who with one other alternatively each week transported the plaintiff and others to and from the laboratory, for which service the passengers made modest pecuniary contributions toward the expense entailed. Such was the occasion for the presence of the plaintiff in the defendant's vehicle on the morning of August 29, 1951.

The misfortune had grave consequences. Haddad suffered a fractured leg and other injuries. No one doubts the severity of the injuries sustained by the plaintiff. In this particular we note that although the plaintiff had been examined prior to the trial by two physicians selected by the defendant, neither was called to testify.

The trial judge instructed the jurors that if they resolved that the plaintiff was, under the rules of law which he expressed, entitled to recover, they should in estimating the award of damages consider the following elements:

"1. The physical injury sustained, and the pain and suffering incidental thereto in accordance with the nature and extent and duration of those injuries.

2. The effect on the health of the plaintiff.

3. The effect on the ability of the plaintiff to engage in active pursuits and occupations that the ordinary individuals in the circumstance of the plaintiff could and would normally engage in.

4. The loss reasonably incurred and to be reasonably incurred in the future because of the effect upon the ability of such plaintiff to undertake and ...


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