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Toral v. Dejesus

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

December 9, 2013

VICTOR M. TORAL and JORGE GUILEOPI, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
MARIA R. DEJESUS, Defendant-Respondent.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted October 1, 2013

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Passaic County, Docket No. L-6088-10.

Paul Femia, attorney for appellants.

Chasan Leyner & Lamparello, P.C., attorneys for respondent (Jason M. Hyndman, on the brief).

Before Judges Sabatino and Hayden.

PER CURIAM

Plaintiffs Victor M. Toral and Jorge Guileopi appeal the August 10, 2012 Law Division order denying their motion to amend their motor vehicle negligence complaint to add another party and granting defendant Maria DeJesus' summary judgment motion to dismiss the complaint. Plaintiffs also appeal the September 19, 2012 order denying their motion for reconsideration. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

The record reveals the following undisputed facts. On December 11, 2008, plaintiffs were passengers in a motor vehicle involved in a collision with a vehicle owned by and registered to defendant. The driver of defendant's vehicle fled the scene before the police arrived. Plaintiffs obtained the information about the ownership and registration of defendant's vehicle through the license plate number.

Alleging injuries from the collision, plaintiffs filed a complaint for damages against defendant, claiming that she was the owner and operator of the vehicle at the time of the accident. Defendant denied these allegations in her answer. Plaintiff included fictitious names in the complaint to preserve claims against unknown tortfeasors.

On July 8, 2011, the complaint was dismissed without prejudice due to plaintiffs' failure to provide answers to discovery. After defendant moved to dismiss the complaint with prejudice in December 2011, plaintiffs filed a motion to reinstate the complaint. On February 17, 2012, the court issued an order reinstating the complaint and setting the discovery end date for April 17, 2012, and the arbitration date for April 26, 2012.

On February 27, 2012, defendant, in answers to interrogatories, stated that her son was driving the vehicle at the time of the accident. After the unsuccessful arbitration, the court set the trial date for September 4, 2012.

On July 2, 2012, defendant filed a motion for summary judgment based on the fact that she was not the driver of the vehicle at the time of the accident. Plaintiff filed a cross-motion seeking leave to amend the complaint to add defendant's son as a defendant.

In granting defendant's motion and denying plaintiffs' motion, the court stated that plaintiffs provided no explanation why they did not obtain the identity of the driver earlier. The court pointed out that earlier service of interrogatories or a deposition of the registered owner would have revealed this information in a timely manner. Moreover, the court found that "[t]he granting of [plaintiffs'] application would unduly delay the resolution of this matter." The court also denied plaintiffs' subsequent motion for reconsideration, again stressing that there ...


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