Kilkenny, Halpern and Lane. The opinion of the court was delivered by Lane, J.A.D.
Plaintiffs appeal upon leave granted from an order dated August 14, 1970 that "the above captioned matters be severed and tried separately as to all issues for the purpose of trial in the Superior Court, Law Division, Union County," and from an order dated October 19, 1970 denying a rehearing.
On July 7, 1967, Sherry Ann Quagliato, under 21 years of age at the time of the accidents, was operating an automobile which was struck in the rear by an automobile owned and operated by Harold Zemany. On September 12, 1967, Sherry Ann Quagliato was the operator of an automobile which was struck at an intersection by an automobile owned and operated by Nathan Bodner. In March 1969 separate suits were instituted against each defendant to recover damages for her injuries sustained in each accident. By motion filed July 29, 1969, plaintiffs moved to consolidate the two actions "as to damages only upon the grounds that they involve common injuries to plaintiff which may prove difficult to apportion or allocate to each particular defendant." Although notice of the hearing date of the motion was given to the attorney for each defendant, no appearance was made in opposition to the motion. An order dated August 19, 1969, was signed by Judge Milton A. Feller providing "that the within causes of action be and they are hereby consolidated for trial on the question of damages only. The question of liability in each case will be tried separately after which trials, and in the event plaintiff is successful in both cases, the question of damages will be tried jointly."
On June 24, 1970, Bodner filed a notice of motion that he would apply to the court on July 3, 1970, "for an order vacating the order of the court of August 19, 1969, consolidating the above matters, and make application for them to be severed and tried separately as to all issues." The
motion was heard by a different judge, and the relief sought was granted by the August 14, 1970 order. After the entry of this order, application was made by plaintiffs to the Law Division for a rehearing of the motion and, alternatively, for "a stay on the trial of the issues of damages in each of the within causes pending the resolution of all issues of the liability in the trial of the two cases." The judge who signed the August 14, 1970 order filed a letter-opinion denying the application. An order dated October 19, 1970, was entered providing that "the applications for the consolidation of the within causes of action and the application for a stay of the trial of the issues on the question of damages be and they are hereby denied."
In interrogatories answered by Sherry Ann Quagliato in the Zemany action she set forth that her injuries in part were "cervical sprain, whiplash type injury; acute sprain and strain of cervical spine; acute lumbar sprain." Allegedly she was confined to a hospital from July 8 to July 24, 1967, and from September 13 to September 16, 1967.
In interrogatories answered by her in the Bodner action she set forth that her injuries in part were "cervical sprain, whiplash type injury;" "aggravation of lower back and upper back conditions from accident of July 7, 1967." She alleged that she was confined to a hospital from September 13 to September 16, 1967.
In her deposition plaintiff stated that the injuries she sustained in both accidents were to the same areas of her body and that her complaints following each accident were similar. The physician who had treated her since July 8, 1967, testified on deposition that the injuries and complaints arising from each accident were to the same area of plaintiff's body. He said that he could not separate the injuries sustained in the second accident from those injuries sustained in the first accident but that there was an aggravation to the injuries sustained in the first accident as a result of the second accident. He testified, "I cannot at all divide any portion of
her pain today and make it attributable to the first injury or the second injury."
We note that Judge Feller's order of August 19, 1969, consolidating the damage issue, was not specifically vacated by the August 14, 1970 order. It seems clear to us, however, that the judge signing the August 14, 1970 order intended it to vacate Judge Feller's earlier order. We will so consider its effect.
We strongly disapprove of the procedure followed by Bodner and concurred in by Zemany. If they were dissatisfied with Judge Feller's order, the proper procedure would have been to apply for leave to appeal under R. 2:2-4 or to move before Judge Feller to vacate the order under R. 4:50-1. Bodner's motion directed to the August 19, 1969 order was filed June 24, 1970, and was to be heard July 3, 1970. Judge Feller was sitting in the same Division, in the same county, throughout July 1970. We should not have to say that under these circumstances a motion for relief pursuant to R. 4:50-1 should properly have been brought on for hearing before Judge Feller, the judge who signed the order sought to be vacated. We see no reason for a different judge consenting to hear defendant's motion. The fact that the motion was not actually moved for hearing until August 14, when Judge Feller was on vacation, does not alter our opinion. The hearing should have been ...