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Ruggiano v. Toomey

August 30, 2010

JOSEPH J. RUGGIANO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
CHAD B. TOOMEY, HERMAN LIEDTKA, INC., LARRY ELLISON, COUNTY OF BURLINGTON, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS, AND CAROLINA HADILAND, DEFENDANT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Burlington County, No. L-14-07.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted May 18, 2010

Before Judges Wefing, Grall and Messano.

Plaintiff, Joseph J. Ruggiano, was involved in an automobile accident on April 21, 2006, at the intersection of County Road 672 ("CR 672") and County Road 528 ("CR 528") in Burlington, New Jersey. He brought suit for the injuries he received in that collision. He now appeals from trial court orders granting summary judgment to defendants. After reviewing the record in light of the contentions advanced on appeal, we affirm.

I.

CR 672 is a north/south road which intersects CR 528, an east/west road, at a "T" intersection. A stop sign controls drivers on CR 672 who wish to turn onto CR 528. Plaintiff is a police officer employed by the Chesterfield Township Police Department. On the morning of April 21, he was heading westbound on CR 528; the flashers on his police vehicle were activated. Defendant Larry Ellison was driving a tractor-trailer eastbound on CR 528; both approached the intersection with CR 672. Defendant Chad B. Toomey was driving a dump truck owned by defendant Liedtka, Inc. ("Liedtka") southbound on CR 672. Toomey brought his dump truck to a stop at the stop bar painted on the road surface. He intended to make a left turn onto CR 528 and head eastbound. Ellison wished to make a left turn from CR 528 onto CR 672. He stopped his tractor trailer preparatory to making the turn, waiting for Toomey to make his turn so that Ellison would have more room to navigate his tractor-trailer.

Toomey did not have a clear line of vision from the stop line to check for traffic on CR 528 to see if it were safe to turn and he began to inch his truck forward. He said that Ellison, waiting to turn onto CR 672, waved him forward, but Ellison denied doing so. Ellison said that he had been talking on his cell phone, and Toomey may have misunderstood that as a gesture signaling him to proceed. Toomey also testified, however, that he did not rely on any signal from Ellison and understood he had to make his own observations before proceeding.

Toomey testified that as he neared the intersection, he saw the lights on plaintiff's approaching police car and brought his truck to a stop. Plaintiff, however, thought that Toomey was entering the intersection to make his turn just as plaintiff was about to cross the intersection. He slammed on his brakes to avoid a collision but skidded into the dump truck, sustaining serious injuries. The force of the collision pushed the dump truck eight to ten feet to the side.

Plaintiff filed suit against Toomey and his employer, and Ellison. He also named the County of Burlington as a defendant, claiming that it had placed the stop line for traffic on CR 672 too far back from the intersection with CR 528. After discovery, all defendants moved for summary judgment, and the trial court granted all the motions. This appeal followed.

On appeal, plaintiff raises the following contentions for our consideration:

I THERE ARE GENUINE ISSUES OF MATERIAL FACT TO PRECLUDE GRANT OF SUMMARY JUDGMENT.

II BASED UPON HOLDINGS IN THORNE AND PROGENY, AS APPLIED TO THE FACTS OF THIS MATTER, THERE IS ARE [sic] GENUINE ISSUES OF MATERIAL FACT PRECLUDING THE GRANT OF SUMMARY JUDGMENT.

III DEFENDANT, TOOMEY'S, ACTIONS RESULTED IN A PER SE VIOLATION OF N.J.S.A. 39:4-144 PRECLUDING A ...


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