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Robinson v. Ford

June 29, 2007

PHYLLIS ROBINSON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
RALPH R. FORD, PATRICIA A. GARNETT, AND PATRICIA W. GARNETT,*FN1 DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, L-2013-03.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued April 25, 2007

Before Judges Lefelt and Sapp-Peterson.

Plaintiff appeals from the order entered denying her motion for a new trial following a jury verdict of no cause in favor of defendants Ralph R. Ford (Ford) and Patricia Garnett (Garnett). Plaintiff claims the jury verdict was a compromise and against the weight of the evidence. We disagree and affirm.

Here are the facts presented to the jury. The complaint arose out of an accident involving Garnett and Ford. Plaintiff was a front-seat passenger in the Garnett vehicle. The accident occurred in the parking lot of the Costa del Sol Restaurant located on Vauxhall Road in Union, New Jersey. The parking lot is located in the front of the restaurant. From Vauxhall Road, there is one entrance into the lot and also one exit from the lot.

At the time of the accident, all parties were at the restaurant to attend a wedding ceremony and reception. The parking lot was crowded, and after driving around without finding a spot, Garnett was directed to another area.

According to plaintiff, Garnett entered the intersection of the lane closest to Vauxhall Road intending to exit onto the highway. Garnett's vehicle was struck on the left front side by the Ford vehicle, which appeared to come straight towards them from the right, down the lane marked with an arrow going in the opposite direction.

Garnett's testimony was essentially consistent with plaintiff's version of the accident, except she testified that she was not moving or attempting to make a turn at the time of the impact. This testimony, however, was inconsistent with Garnett's earlier deposition testimony where she acknowledged that the impact occurred as she attempted to make a right turn at the intersection and then exit onto Vauxhall Road.

Ford testified that he too was proceeding through the parking lot in search of a parking spot. The parking lot lanes had two-way directional arrows. He traveled in the direction of the arrow for his lane, but because cars were parked both to his left and right, his vehicle was more to the middle rather than to the extreme right.

As he approached the intersection of his lane and the entranceway, he stopped to await the passing of a line of cars proceeding through the entrance from Vauxhall Road. When the road cleared, he looked both ways and then proceeded into the intersection where the impact occurred.

Following the accident, all the parties attended the wedding ceremony and reception that followed. Plaintiff and Garnett, however, did not remain at the reception very long because, according to plaintiff, they were "[shaken] up [and] plus it was like crowded, a lot of people."

After deliberating, the jury determined that plaintiff failed to prove that defendants were negligent. Despite the jury's verdict, plaintiff received $2,000 in settlement of her claim against Garnett, in accordance with an agreement reached prior to trial. Under the agreement, known as a High-Low, irrespective of the jury's verdict, plaintiff would receive at least $2,000, but no more than $2,500.

Plaintiff filed a motion for a new trial. Relying upon Hoffman v. Smith, 6 N.J. Misc. 1090 (Sup. Ct. 1928), plaintiff argued that the fact that this was an intersection accident "where one car was coming one way and one car was going ...


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