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Sas v. Strelecki

Decided: April 20, 1970.

RICHARD C. SAS, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT
v.
JUNE STRELECKI, DIRECTOR OF MOTOR VEHICLES, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT. JOHN DRAHOS, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT, V. JUNE STRELECKI, DIRECTOR OF MOTOR VEHICLES, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT, AND RICHARD C. SAS AND WALTER H. WARD, DEFENDANTS



Conford, Collester and Kolovsky. The opinion of the court was delivered by Conford, P.J.A.D.

Conford

[110 NJSuper Page 16] This appeal arises out of negligence litigation following a collision between a car being driven south on Crows Mill Road in Fords and a car parked on the easterly side of the road. Plaintiffs Sas, the driver, and Drahos, his passenger, sue the defendant Strelecki, as Director of the Division of Motor Vehicles, and Drahos' complaint joins Sas as a party defendant. Defendant Director is sued under the Unsatisfied Claim and Judgment Fund Act provision authorizing such suit in "hit and run" cases. N.J.S.A. 39:6-78. Plaintiffs' contention at trial was that while they were traveling late at night a light-colored car came at theirs from the opposite direction and on the wrong side of the road, and that Sas swerved to the left to avoid it and in so doing collided with the parked car. The owner of that car is not a party.

The main issue on appeal is the admissibility of an investigating police officer's testimony as to statements made to him at the scene of the accident by Sas, Drahos and a local resident, Mrs. Alliegro, and, in relation to the latter, of the admissibility of the officer's official report of the accident.

Called by Drahos as his first witness, the officer testified he arrived at the scene between five and ten minutes after receiving a radio signal to go to the scene. Over objection of the defendant the officer was allowed to state what Sas and Mrs. Alliegro (and, impliedly, Drahos) had told him as to how the accident happened. His account, practically identical with his official report, from which he apparently read, was as follows:

Q. Officer, what did they tell you as to how this accident happened?

A. Driver of vehicle number two [Sas] stated he was travelling south on Crows Mill Road when an unidentified car travelling north on Crows Mill Road swerved into his path forcing him to pull his steering wheel and causing him to strike [the parked car] which was legally parked at the curb. He stated further that had he not swerved the unidentified vehicle would have hit him head on.

Q. Officer, is there anything else contained in your report with regard to his statements?

A. Yes, sir, there is.

Q. Will you finish your report?

A. He told me that the vehicle, that the unidentified vehicle was a 1966 White Chevrolet, and after he hit the parked car, the Chevy picked up speed and left the scene.

Q. What did the witness tell you with regard to the happening of the accident or with regard to her observations?

A. The information given to me by [Sas] and his passenger was backed up by a witness [Mrs. Alliegro] who told me the same thing.

The trial judge admitted this testimony over objection because Sas, Drahos and Mrs. Alliegro were going to testify and because "I think the jury should ...


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