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McGowan v. Barry

Decided: May 23, 1986.

CHARLES J. MCGOWAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COLLEEN D. BARRY AND RICHARD R. BARRY, JR., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS, AND ARVIND H. PATEL, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT. ARVIND H. PATEL AND REKHA PATEL, PLAINTIFFS, V. COLLEEN D. BARRY AND RICHARD R. BARRY, JR., DEFENDANTS. COLLEEN D. BARRY AND RICHARD R. BARRY, JR., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS, V. ARVIND H. PATEL, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County.

Michels and Stern. The opinion of the court was delivered by Michels, P.J.A.D.

Michels

[210 NJSuper Page 471] Following a trial as to liability in three consolidated automobile negligence cases, the jury found: (1) plaintiff Colleen D. Barry (Barry) to be 55% negligent and defendant Arvind H. Patel (Patel) to be 45% negligent; and (2) their respective negligence was the proximate cause of the subject motor vehicle accident. Thereafter, Barry and her father, Richard R. Barry, Jr. moved alternatively for either a new trial, a judgment notwithstanding the verdict or a molded verdict that Barry and Patel were each 50% negligent. These motions were denied by the trial court and this appeal followed.*fn1

On appeal Barry seeks a reversal of this order and urges this court either to mold the jury verdict, to provide that both she and Patel were 50% negligent, or alternatively, to grant her a new trial as to liability.*fn2 We are satisfied from our study of the record, in light of the arguments presented, that: (1) the evidence in support of the jury verdict, with respect to liability, was not insufficient; (2) the determination of the trial court on the alternative motions for either a new trial, a judgment notwithstanding the verdict or a molded verdict were properly denied and this action does not constitute a manifest denial of justice; and (3) all of the issues of law raised are clearly without merit. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(B), (C) and (E). Accordingly, the order under review is affirmed substantially for the reasons expressed by Judge Figarotta in his oral opinion of May 24, 1985.

Contrary to Barry's claim, the trial court properly instructed the jury with respect to her duty in making a left-hand turn. The charge clearly was proper because the proofs showed that Barry had attempted to complete a left-hand turn from Stelton Road to Ethel Road, which resulted in the collision. Despite the fact that the only vehicle which she

observed was stopped to make a left turn from the opposite lane, Barry still had a duty to exercise reasonable care "under all the circumstances confronting [her] at [this] particular time." Ambrose v. Cyphers, 29 N.J. 138, 149 (1959).

The particular facts in this left-hand turn situation required that the charge be given. Specifically, the fact that Barry could not see to the passenger side of the van operated by Eldred A. More, provided ample reason for her to take special precautions under the particularly hazardous circumstances. See Ambrose v. Cyphers, supra, 29 N.J. at 144 (standard of care of reasonable person involves consideration of varied amounts of care in relation to amount of risk of harm involved). Cf. Zec v. Thompson, 166 N.J. Super. 52, 55 (App.Div.1979) (driver not relieved of duty to exercise increased amount of care in making turn, even though proceeding in accordance with traffic light).

To the extent that the holding in Rudy v. Thompson, 186 N.J. Super. 359, 362 (App.Div.1982), that a driver's "duty of greater care extend[s] only to drivers of oncoming vehicles in the lane for travel in the opposite direction," can be read as reaching a contrary conclusion, we disagree with it. In our view, the Rudy court failed to consider this court's decision in Spillias v. Radics, 65 N.J. Super. 458, 460-461 (App.Div.1961), which recognized that a duty of care was also owed, by a driver who had turned left at the top of a "T" intersection, to drivers coming from the left. It is, therefore, clear that, as charged by the trial court in this matter, "a motorist is required to make such observations for traffic and vehicles, which are or may come into his path of travel, as a reasonably prudent person would make." See Greenfield v. Dusseault, 60 N.J. Super. 436, 441 (App.Div.1960), aff'd o.b., 33 N.J. 78 (1960) (driver turning left must yield to such other drivers "as can reasonably be expected to come into proximity to the space [s]he must occupy in the course of the maneuver."). Such observations are not

limited to those vehicles coming in a directly opposite lane of traffic.

Since Barry could not see to the passenger side of the More van and the roadway was wide enough to accommodate the width of two vehicles, it was foreseeable that an unobserved automobile could pass the More van on its passenger side. Accordingly, the trial court was correct in instructing the jury to consider whether, "under all the circumstances," Barry "exercise[d] a degree of care in proportion to the increased danger involved in the turn." Therefore, it properly charged:

It is for you to determine whether a reasonably prudent person charged with that duty would, under the circumstances of the case presented here, have made the turn when and in the ...


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