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Kreis v. Owens

Decided: November 14, 1955.

WARREN KREIS, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
THOMAS OWENS -- BY ORDER OF COURT HERBERT RICHARDSON, ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF THOMAS OWENS, DECEASED, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Clapp, Jayne and Francis. The opinion of the court was delivered by Francis, J.A.D.

Francis

[38 NJSuper Page 150] Appellant challenges the validity of the jury verdict awarded to the plaintiff in this automobile negligence action.

The accident out of which the suit arose took place on Sunday, October 4, 1953, at about 9 P.M., on the White Horse Pike in Berlin, Camden County, New Jersey.

Plaintiff Warren P. Kreis is a part-time police officer of the borough. On the evening in question he and the chief of police were standing together on the edge of the road. The chief noticed a northbound car approaching on the wrong side of the street. He and Kreis stepped 10 to 12 feet into the roadway and the chief blew his whistle to halt the car (which incidentally figured no further in the events which followed).

At this time Owens, accompanied by his wife, was driving in a southerly direction on the Pike. Apparently hearing the whistle, he stopped and seconds later another southbound car, driven by Herietel, ran into the rear of his car.

The immediately succeeding events are at the core of this controversy. Unfortunately, both Owens and his wife died some time thereafter and consequently their version was not available at the trial.

There was some testimony of not very substantial probative force suggesting that Owens' lights were not on. It appeared also that after the collision Herietel (who was not joined as a party defendant) had pleaded guilty to violating R.S. 39:4-97 which provides:

"A person driving a vehicle on a highway shall drive it at a careful and prudent speed, not greater than is reasonable and proper, having due regard to the traffic, surface and width of the highway, and of any other conditions then existing, and no person shall drive a vehicle on a highway at such a speed as to endanger the life, limb or property of a person."

According to a statement of plaintiff's counsel appearing in the record, the specific allegation was driving too close to another vehicle.

Proof adduced by the plaintiff supported the inference that upon the Herietel-Owens impact, the Owens car shot forward, struck the Kreis vehicle which was parked at the edge of the road, and then hit Kreis before he could

get out of the way, after which it continued on for about 100 feet before coming to rest.

A state trooper who appeared on the scene found Owens seated in his car having ...


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