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Morales v. Schneider

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

December 16, 2013

LUCIANO MORALES and THERESA SORIANO, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
CHRISTOPHER S. SCHNEIDER and GC SCHNEIDER CONSTRUCTION COMPANY, INC. Defendants-Respondents.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued December 2, 2013

On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Docket No. L-756-11.

Luis A. Martinez argued the cause for appellants (LaBarbiera & Martinez, attorneys; Mr. Martinez, of counsel and on the brief).

Albert C. Lisbona argued the cause for respondents (Dwyer Connell & Lisbona, attorneys (as to negligence claims only); Mr. Lisbona, on the brief).

Rubenstein, Meyerson, Fox, Mancinelli & Conte, P.A., attorneys for respondents (as to all claims other than negligence), join in the brief of respondents.

Before Judges Harris and Kennedy.

PER CURIAM

Plaintiffs appeal from a Law Division order granting summary judgment to defendants Christopher S. Schneider and CG Schneider Construction Company, Inc. ("defendants" when referenced collectively, "Schneider" or "the construction company" when referenced individually). Plaintiffs argue that the motion court erred in granting summary judgment because the construction company, [1] plaintiff Luciano Morales' employer at the time of his injury, through its principal, Schneider, "acted in contravention of State law by driving on the wrong side for over a block on a busy road and was charged criminally for his conduct[, ]" making it "virtually certain" that Morales, a passenger in the employer's truck, would be injured, and thereby overcoming the exclusive remedy provision, N.J.S.A. 34:15-8, in the Workers' Compensation Act (the Act), N.J.S.A. 34:15-1 to -142.

As most recently affirmed in Van Dunk v. Reckson Associates Realty Corp., 210 N.J. 449 (2012), because we narrowly construe the intentional tort exception, we reject plaintiffs' argument and affirm.

I.

Our review of a motion court order granting summary judgment is de novo, and we apply the same standard as the motion court in determining whether there are any genuinely disputed issues of material fact sufficient to warrant resolution of the disputed issues by the trier of fact. Prudential Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co. v. Boylan, 307 N.J.Super. 162, 167 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 154 N.J. 608 (1998). Our analysis requires that we first determine whether the moving party has demonstrated that there are no genuine disputes as to material facts, and then we decide "whether the motion judge's application of the law was correct." Atl. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Hillside Bottling Co., 387 N.J.Super. 224, 230-31 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 189 N.J. 104 (2006). In so doing, we view the evidence "in the light most favorable to the parties opposing summary judgment." Brill v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 142 N.J. 520, 523 (1995). We accord no special deference to the motion judge's conclusions on issues of law. Zabilowicz v. Kelsey, 200 N.J. 507, 512 (2009).

Following are the salient facts viewed in a light most favorable to plaintiffs. On December 31, 2009, at approximately 8:30 a.m., Schneider was driving a construction company truck southbound on Rivervale Road in River Vale. Morales, a construction company employee, was a passenger in the truck. It was snowing at the time, and Schneider and Morales were on their way to the company's place of business to meet other contractors the company had hired to undertake snowplowing services for the construction company's clients.

Rivervale Road is a two-lane road on which the northbound and southbound lanes are divided by a double yellow line. That morning, the road was snow-covered and the traffic was slow-moving. At some point, Schneider, while still driving south, crossed the double yellow line and entered the northbound lane of Rivervale Road in an effort to pass the slower traffic ahead of him. Schneider drove for "more than a full block" in the northbound ...


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