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Gretowski v. Hall Motor Express

Decided: March 23, 1953.

ADAM GRETOWSKI, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
HALL MOTOR EXPRESS AND THOMAS J. COPPERS, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS



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

Jayne

[25 NJSuper Page 193] The mishap out of which this litigation arose was the occurrence of a collision on the Belleville Turnpike at North Arlington on November 7, 1949 between an automobile owned and operated by the plaintiff and a tractor-trailer

owned by the defendant Hall Motor Express and driven by the defendant Thomas J. Coppers. The trial was conducted by the judge of the Passaic County District Court without a jury resulting in a judgment for the plaintiff in the sum of $350 damages. The application of the defendants for a new trial was denied.

No stenographic record of the evidence was made, hence our appellate survey of the case is confined to the statement of the proceedings settled by the trial judge pursuant to Rules 1:2-23; 4:2-6. See also Rule 7:13-3. Cherr v. Rubenstein , 22 N.J. Super. 212 (App. Div. 1952). It is with the scope of our review thus circumscribed that we have in response to the defendants' appeal studied the legal and factual propriety of the judgment.

Some of the relevant facts seem to be mutually acknowledged. The turnpike is divided into four traffic lanes. The plaintiff's vehicle was proceeding westerly on the inner or south lane for west-bound traffic, and the tractor-trailer was traveling easterly on the inner or north lane for east-bound traffic. In the locality of the mishap the highway curves to the plaintiff's right. The left front of the plaintiff's automobile and the left front and left side of the tractor-trailer came into collision.

It is rational to conclude that some front part of the one or of the other or of both vehicles proceeded to some extent over the center line of the highway in order for them so to come in actual contact. Each driver testified that the vehicle of the other did so. Disputations between parties sometimes leave the truth in the middle. Consequently the trial court became necessarily concerned not only with the existence of the alleged negligence of the defendant driver but also with the implication of the alleged contributory negligence of the plaintiff.

It is in view of those characteristics of the case that we discern the essentiality of the testimony of the apparently disinterested witness Shull. But before revealing the substance of the testimony of Shull, it will be illuminating to reproduce here from the statement of the proceedings the

plaintiff's description of the circumstances surrounding the occurrence of the collision.

The plaintiff testified that:

"As he approached a slight curve to his right, there was a car 6 feet ahead of him, one to his right, in the next lane, and one to his rear in the lane in which he was traveling. Traffic was very heavy.

He observed the tractor-trailer of the defendant, Hall Motor Express, for the first time coming downhill from the opposite direction 50 feet away from his car, traveling at a speed of 40 to 50 MPH, crossing the white center line into the lane of westbound traffic, and he, Mr. Gretkowski, closed his eyes, as he was unable to do anything to avoid the oncoming collision due to the speed of defendant's tractor-trailer, heavy traffic conditions and close proximity of cars in front, in back and to the right of plaintiff."

We may pause to confess that we have a rather nebulous understanding of the manner in which a tractor-trailer traveling at the speed of 50 miles an hour around a curve to its left and observed in its approach to cross the center line of the highway at a distance of 50 feet west of the plaintiff could have collided with the plaintiff's moving vehicle and ...


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