October 30, 2007
ROBERT SPADAVECCHIA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
CITIZEN TOWING COMPANY AND BRYAN D. SCHILLING, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, L-223-04.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued October 9, 2007
Before Judges Weissbard and Gilroy.
Plaintiff, Robert Spadavecchia, appeals from a no-cause verdict in his personal injury suit against defendants Bryan D. Schilling and Citizens Towing Company. We affirm.
Liability having been stipulated, trial was on the issue of damages, including proximate cause. Both sides presented medical testimony as to: (1) the nature and extent of plaintiff's injuries; and (2) the nexus between plaintiff's injuries and the automobile accident of January 11, 2002. After the jury verdict in favor of defendants, plaintiff moved for a new trial or an additur. In denying that motion, Judge Conte filed a concise written opinion which stated:
The present circumstances do not compel the granting of additur or a new trial in this matter. New Jersey Court Rule 4:49-1 states in pertinent part that the trial judge should grant a motion for a new trial if "having given due regard to the opportunity of the jury to pass upon the credibility of the witnesses, it clearly and convincingly appears that there was a miscarriage of justice under the law." Ibid. Plaintiff in the current action argues that, based on the stipulation of negligence, Plaintiff's testimony, and the testimony of Plaintiff's experts, the jury's "no cause" verdict constitutes a miscarriage of justice under the law.
Plaintiff misconstrues the effect of the stipulation as to negligence. While it is true that the Defendants' negligence was uncontroverted, Plaintiff nevertheless carried the burden of proving that the Defendants' negligence was the proximate cause of his injuries. As noted in the parties' current submissions, it is clear that Plaintiff had ample opportunity, through his own testimony, as well as that of his physicians, to establish this link in the eyes of the jury. The "no cause" verdict clearly demonstrates that Plaintiff failed to meet that burden. While this Court does not doubt that Plaintiff may suffer from injuries, it is plain that the jury did not view these injuries as having been caused by the automobile accident which comprises the basis of the current action.
Despite Plaintiff's apparent contention to the contrary, Defendants' stipulation of negligence in this matter does not equate to mandatory recovery absent a sufficient showing of proximate causation. That showing being wholly absent from the record, the circumstances presented do not compel granting Plaintiff's motion for additur or a new trial. There is no evidence in support of Plaintiff's contention that the jury verdict clearly and convincingly resulted in a miscarriage of justice.
Plaintiff presents the following arguments for our consideration:
POINT I: THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN NOT GRANTING THE PLAINTIFF'S POST-TRIAL MOTION FOR ADDITUR.
A. The Standard of Review for a Discretionary Decision Permits the Reversal of the Lower Court's Decision as it Pertains to the Plaintiff's Motion for Additur.
POINT II: THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN NOT GRANTING THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR A NEW TRIAL.
POINT III: THIS COURT MUST GRANT THE PLAINTIFF'S REQUEST FOR A NEW TRIAL AS THE JURY'S VERDICT WAS AGAINST THE WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE AND A MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE OCCURRED.
Having reviewed these arguments in light of the record and applicable law we find no basis for our intervention.
Plaintiff's contentions simply invite us to impermissibly substitute our judgment for that of the jury and the trial judge. We conclude that the arguments advanced are without sufficient merit to warrant additional discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3 (e)(1)(A).
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