For reversal and remandment -- Chief Justice Weintraub and Justices Jacobs, Francis, Hall, Schettino and Mountain. For affirmance -- None. The opinion of the Court was delivered by Francis, J.
The several actions in this case arise out of a three car collision which occurred on Sunday evening, July 18, 1965 at about 9:30 P.M. in Gloucester City, Camden County, New Jersey.
Prior to the mishap, all three automobiles had been traveling in a northerly direction on the North-South Freeway. The traffic was very heavy; it was described as having been start-and-stop for some distance. The road surface was wet from rain which had ended a short time earlier.
Miss Alma McGlone, driving a new Volkswagon north on the Freeway, said that the line of traffic in front of her stopped. She followed suit and as the cars began to move again, she put her Volkswagon in first gear and was just starting to move when her car was struck heavily from the rear. She was injured and her automobile was damaged. Michael Corbi was operating the car which struck Miss McGlone's vehicle in the rear. His wife, Margaret Corbi, Dorothy Zegen and her husband Benjamin Zegen, and Tillie Toll were passengers riding with him. According to him, the line of traffic, including his car, had stopped and before he moved again, his car was struck in the rear by a heavy blow which
pushed him into the McGlone car, damaging her vehicle and injuring his passengers. Dr. John C. Vermeren was the operator of the third automobile, a 1965 Lincoln sedan. He was driving from Cape May to a Philadelphia airport. He testified that he was moving at about 25 to 30 miles per hour as he reached a knoll or ridge in the highway. Ahead of him, about 450 feet away, he saw the line of traffic moving but with decreasing speed. He took his foot off the accelerator and started to coast down the slight incline. When halfway down to the base of the incline, he noticed that the cars preceding him had stopped. Up to this point he had experienced no trouble with the brakes on the Lincoln, although he had driven it about 19,000 miles. He expected no difficulty about stopping in time, and when about 30-40 feet from the stopped Corbi car he applied his brakes; "to * * * [his] amazement" nothing happened although he pushed the brake pedal all the way to the floor. The result was the front of his Lincoln hit the rear of the Corbi car. Dr. Vermeren did not try to use the emergency brake, saying that in the short time available he was making a frantic effort to get his regular brake to work, but there was no response to his pumping. The doctor's vehicle was damaged but apparently neither he nor his passengers were injured.
A multiplicity of suits and countersuits arose out of the accident:
1. January 5, 1966. Alma McGlone sued Dr. Vermeren and Michael Corbi in Superior Court, Law Division, on account of her personal injuries and consequent losses.
2. February 11, 1966. Corbi cross-claimed against Vermeren for contribution if McGlone recovered against him.
3. March 16, 1966. Vermeren cross-claimed for contribution against Corbi in the McGlone suit.
4. May 18, 1966. Vermeren filed a third-party complaint against Ford Motor Company seeking indemnification or contribution if McGlone recovered against him and also demanding recovery against Ford Motor Company for the damage to his Lincoln automobile.
5. November 25, 1966. Ford Motor Company counterclaimed against Corbi and Vermeren for contribution or indemnification in the McGlone suit.
6. December 16, 1966. McGlone amended her complaint to include Ford Motor Company as a defendant in the original action.
7. February 24, 1967. Alma McGlone sued Vermeren and Ford Motor Company in the district court for the property damage to her car. Ford and Vermeren again cross-claimed against each other for indemnification or contribution. This suit was later transferred to Superior Court, Law Division and consolidated for trial with the other pending actions.
8. June 29, 1967. Twenty days before the statute of limitations expired, Margaret Corbi and Michael Corbi, as her husband, sued Vermeren on account of her injuries and expenses. Michael Corbi's per quod claim was later withdrawn; he also sued ...