NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 10, 2012
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Docket No. L-6993-06.
Spevak Law Offices, P.A., attorneys for appellant (Howard H. Sims, on the brief).
Hoagland, Longo, Moran, Dunst & Doukas, LLP, attorneys for respondent Malarie L. Donohue (Chad M. Moore, of counsel; Thaddeus J. Hubert, IV, on the brief).
Leary, Bride, Tinker & Moran, attorneys for respondent Carlos A. Zape-Hernandez (David J. Dering, of counsel and on the brief).
Before Judges Graves and Espinosa.
In this automobile negligence action, plaintiff Liliam Amezquita appeals from an August 10, 2011 order dismissing her complaint after a jury returned a no cause verdict in favor of defendants Malarie L. Donahue and Carlos A. Zape-Hernandez, and from an order denying her motion for a new trial. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
At approximately 12:49 p.m. on July 25, 2005, Amezquita was a front-seat passenger in an automobile operated by Zape-Hernandez traveling southbound on Rahway Avenue in Avenel. Donahue was driving her vehicle in the opposite direction on Rahway Avenue. Both vehicles were approaching the intersection of Rahway Avenue and Avenel Street. The posted speed limit was thirty-five miles per hour, and the traffic light was green for both drivers. Donahue was making a left-hand turn onto Avenel Street, when the two vehicles collided in the southbound lane of Rahway Avenue. Amezquita claimed she suffered permanent injuries to her head, neck, back, and right knee as a result of the accident.
The first trial, limited to liability only, was held on July 14, 2010. The jury found that neither defendant was negligent. Amezquita then filed a motion for a new trial, which the court granted on August 27, 2010.
The second trial took place in July 2011. Neither plaintiff nor defendants presented expert testimony regarding how the accident occurred. Only Amezquita, Zape-Hernandez, and Donahue described the accident to the jury. Amezquita testified that she did not recall "that much" about the accident and did not remember if she "saw [Donahue's] vehicle before the impact." However, she was able to recall that Zape-Hernandez had a green light and was driving approximately thirty-five or forty miles per hour.
Zape-Hernandez testified he was "about three car lengths away from the light" when he first saw Donahue's vehicle. He further testified he "was doing about the speed limit, 35, a little under." According to Zape-Hernandez, Donahue did not "stop before turning" directly in front of his car. Zape-Hernandez testified he "steered a little bit to the right" and "pressed the gas to try to go around her and it didn't work out that well." He explained that he did not apply his brakes because Donahue's "car was already too close. If [he] would have applied [the] breaks it would have been just a head-on collision. [He] just thought split second if [he] could go around the car maybe it would be less of an impact."
Portions of Donahue's deposition were read to the jury. During her deposition, Donahue recalled that Zape-Hernandez "was coming towards [her] and [she] misjudged the rate of speed that he was coming at. [She] thought he was coming much slower than he was, and thought [she] had plenty of time" to make the turn. At trial, Donahue stated she stopped to allow the car in front of the Zape-Hernandez vehicle to pass through the intersection before turning left onto Avenel Street. Donahue testified she was "about 200 feet" from Zape-Hernandez's car and had "ample room" to make the turn. According to Donahue, ...