For modification and remandment -- Chief Justice Hughes, Justices Jacobs, Hall, Sullivan, Pashman and Clifford and Judge Conford. Opposed -- None. The opinion of the Court was delivered by Sullivan, J.
This case grows out of a two-car collision which occurred at 3:11 A.M. on May 27, 1970 at the intersection of Bergenline Avenue and Ninth Street in Union City. One of the vehicles was proceeding south on Bergenline Avenue, a one-way southbound street, and was being driven by Walter Santiago who had Patricia Scott as a passenger in his car. The other vehicle was proceeding west on Ninth Street, a one-way westbound street, and was being driven by Rose Palmieri who had Mickey Pappas as a passenger in her car.
As a result of the accident Patricia Scott and her husband James Scott filed suit against the operator and owner of each vehicle. Pappas brought a similar suit. Cross-claims for contribution under the Joint Tortfeasors' Contribution Law, N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-1 et seq., were filed by defendants in each case. The two suits were consolidated and the issues of liability and damages severed for separate trial. R. 4:38-2.
At the trial of the liability issue, the trial court submitted the following questions to the jury:*fn1
1. Was the defendant Rose V. Palmieri negligent?
2. If so, was her negligence a proximate cause of the accident?
3. Was the defendant Walter Santiago negligent?
4. If so, was his negligence a proximate cause of the accident?
The jury answered questions 1, 3 and 4 "yes," but answered question 2 "no." Based on the jury verdict the trial court entered a judgment of liability against Santiago and dismissed the complaints and cross-claims for contribution against Mrs. Palmieri. Santiago's motion for judgment n.o.v. or for a new trial was denied. The issue of damages was then tried against Santiago as the sole defendant and verdicts returned of $4,000 in favor of Pappas, $5,560 in
favor of Patricia Scott and $2,000 in favor of her husband James Scott.
Santiago appealed to the Appellate Division challenging only that part of the judgment which dismissed his cross-claims against Mrs. Palmieri for contribution.
The Appellate Division held, in an unreported opinion, that the jury determination that even though both drivers were negligent, the negligence of Mrs. Palmieri was not a proximate cause of the accident, "was a manifest denial or miscarriage of justice." It ordered a new trial of Santiago's cross-claims against Mrs. Palmieri for contribution limited to the issue of whether her negligence, as found by the jury, was a proximate cause of the accident. The Appellate Division opinion also provided that since Santiago did not challenge the ...