This matter comes before the court on a motion on behalf of the third-party defendant Thomas J. Tomasco to set aside service of process which had been effected through service on the Director of the Division of Motor Vehicles pursuant to the provisions set forth in R.S. 39:7-1 et seq. relating to service of process upon non-residents.
The essential facts necessary to decide this motion are not disputed. On May 8, 1962, at approximately 5 P.M., a four-car collision occurred at or near the Passyunk Avenue entrance to an approach to the Walt Whitman Bridge, in Philadelphia, Pa. This bridge connects Philadelphia with Gloucester City, N.J.
As a result of the accident, James L. Wall, of Bellmawr, N.J., brought suit in Camden County Court against Harry L. Demberger of Stratford, also Camden County, New Jersey. Subsequently, defendant Demberger filed a third-party complaint against the defendants Charles Farenkopf and Thomas J. Tomasco seeking contribution under the New Jersey Joint Tortfeasors Act. Third-party defendant Tomasco resides at 2337 South Rosewood Street, Philadelphia.
The Passyunk Avenue approach, the situs of the accident, is on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River at a point
approximately 1 1/2 miles west of the toll gate for the bridge. The toll gate is located at the base of the bridge on the Pennsylvania side, approximately four blocks west of the westerly shore of the river.
Since service on out-of-state residents is a statutory remedy, the provisions of the statute must be satisfied before the service of process is valid and binding. N.J.S.A. 39:7-2 provides, inter alia, that the Director of Motor Vehicles is deemed to be the agent for service of process on any person who operates a motor vehicle "upon any public highway of this State" in actions "arising out of or by reason of any accident or collision occurring within this State." (Emphasis added)
The fact that the third-party defendant is domiciled in Pennsylvania and the accident occurred over 1 1/2 miles west of the western shoreline of the Delaware River would ordinarily dispose in the negative the issue of service of process through the nonresident statute, since N.J.S.A. 39:7-2 requires that the accident occur "within this state." Counsel for the third-party plaintiff ably argues, however, that the State of New Jersey and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have merged a portion of their sovereignty by the creation of the Delaware River Port Authority, which operates and maintains the bridge and its approaches pursuant to R.S. 32:3-1 et seq.
N.J.S.A. 32:3-2 provides that the bridge and its approaches are owned jointly by the two states. It is contended by the third-party plaintiff, therefore, that the jurisdiction of New Jersey extends into the territory of Pennsylvania, co-extensive with the bridge and its approaches, and thereby these roadways become by implication and incorporation "public highways of this state" so that the requirements of N.J.S.A. 39:7-2 are satisfied. Thus, counsel argues that an overlapping of sovereignty has occurred.
There is no dispute over the validity of the compact between the State of New Jersey and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which, with the approval of the United States
Congress, established the Delaware River Joint Commission, subsequently changed to the ...