Plaintiff’s Appeal of The Trial Court’s Order Granted Summary Judgment to Defendant Trucking Company

Dante Rojas, etc. v. Estate of Victor Wright, et al.

Docket No. A-3130-20

Decided September 23, 2022

Submitted by New Jersey Truck Crash Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Court of New Jersey decided plaintiff’s appeal of the trial court’s order granting summary judgment to defendant trucking company.

This case arose out of a motor vehicle accident on December 10, 2016. The decedent was traveling on eastbound on Interstate 280 at approximately 12:42 a.m. when his vehicle collided with a tractor trailer owned by the trucking company and operated by the defendant. The defendant had parked the tractor trailer on the right side of the highway with the left rear tires of the trailer partially in the right lane. The initial collision redirected defendant’s vehicle leftward into the center lane, and it subsequently struck a Lyft vehicle, and further redirected rightward and struck the right side of the tractor trailer, killing the decedent driver and the driver of the tractor trailer, Wright.

The Lyft passenger testified that he observed the decedent driver passing on the right side of their vehicle shortly before the accident, and also stated he saw the driver using his cell phone a minute before the collision. However, he also indicated the decedent driver maintained his land and did not swerve. The Lyft driver testified decedent did not travel into the right shoulder, maintained his lane and that there were no reflective triangles set out on the roadway.

A New Jersey State Trooper who investigated the accident testified he observed tandem tire marks measuring approximately two-tenths of a mile in the right lane of travel created by the left rear tires of the tractor trailer before the collision. The police’s inspection of tractor trailer revealed 18 federal violations including air leaks in the brake lines and no reflective materials on the rear of the truck.

The plaintiff retained an expert who opined the tractor trailer was in an “out-of-service” condition, should not have been on the highway and driver failed to place warning triangles as required by federal regulations.

In granting the trucking company’s motion for summary judgment, the trial judge reasoned that the decedent’s alcohol level (BAC of .062) at the time of the accident with his cellphone use while driving bars his negligence action. The plaintiff argued that the trial judge’s determination that plaintiff’s negligence exceeded the aggregate negligence of the trucking company and its driver is incorrect and is a determination to be made by the jury.

The Appellate Court agreed with the plaintiff’s position and reversed the trial court’s decision. The Appellate Court found the trial judge was overly concerned with defendant’s comparative negligence arguments in rendering her decision, and did not give proper consideration to defendant’s negligence even though there had been ample evidence to support a claim that they were comparatively negligent. The Appellate Court further noted that the trial court’s function here is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. The case was reversed and remanded for trial.

At Hark & Hark, we are experienced attorneys who represent clients for appeals in Superior Court for issues like the previously discussed case pertaining to appealing orders granting summary judgment to the opposing party when there are disputed material facts and/or if the evidence presented is not so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law. We work hard to ensure that our clients receive exceptional representation in order for them to receive the most favorable outcome in their case as a result.

We offer payment plan options to clients financially incapable of providing full payment upfront. If you are facing a similar situation to that of either party in this case, please call us to discuss the matter. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic County, Bergen County, Burlington County, Camden County, Cape May County, Cumberland County, Essex County, Gloucester County, Hudson County, Hunterdon County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Morris County, Ocean County, Passaic County, Salem County, Somerset County, Sussex County, Union County, and Warren County and any town including Audubon, Gloucester City, Oaklyn, Audubon Park, Gloucester Township, Pennsauken, Barrington, Haddon Heights, Pine Hill, Bellmawr, Haddon Township, Pine Valley, Berlin Borough, Haddonfield, Runnemede, Berlin Township, Hi-Nella, Somerdale, Brooklawn, Laurel Springs, Stratford, Camden, Lawnside, Voorhees, Cherry Hill, Lindenwold, Waterford, Chesilhurst, Magnolia, Winslow, Clementon, Merchantville, Woodlynne, Collingswood, Mt. Ephraim, and Gibbsboro.


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Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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