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Townsend v. Pierre

Supreme Court of New Jersey

October 21, 2014, Argued; March 12, 2015, Decided

A-2 September Term 2013, 072357

Case Summary

Overview

HOLDINGS: [1]-In a wrongful death and survival action, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by rejecting the testimony of plaintiffs' expert on the issue of causation as a net opinion given the uncontradicted testimony that the driver's view was unimpeded by the shrubbery on defendants' property; [2]-The Court held that the expert's opinion that the defendant property owner and defendant lessee both had a duty to maintain the landscaping on their property so that it did not obstruct the view of drivers was properly substantiated and was therefore admissible under N.J.R.E. 702 and N.J.R.E. 703.

Outcome

Judgment reversed with respect to the property owners and the trial court's grant of summary judgment in their favor was reinstated.

LexisNexis® Headnotes

 

 

Torts > Negligence > Elements > Breach of Duty

Torts > ... > Causation > Proximate Cause > General Overview

Torts > ... > Proof > Evidence > Burdens of Proof

HN1  Breach of Duty

To sustain a cause of action for negligence, a plaintiff must establish four elements: (1) a duty of care; (2) a breach of that duty; (3) proximate cause; and (4) actual damages. A plaintiff bears the burden of establishing those elements by some competent proof. Proximate cause consists of any cause which in the natural and continuous sequence, unbroken by an efficient intervening cause, produces the result complained of and without which the result would not have occurred.

 

Civil Procedure > Appeals > Standards of Review > Abuse of Discretion

Evidence > Admissibility > Expert Witnesses

Evidence > ... > Testimony > Expert Witnesses > Qualifications

HN2  Abuse of Discretion

The admission or exclusion of expert testimony is committed to the sound discretion of the trial court. As a discovery determination, a trial court's grant or denial of a motion to strike expert testimony is entitled to deference on appellate review. As the New Jersey Supreme Court has noted, the appellate court applies a deferential approach to a trial court's decision to admit expert testimony, reviewing it against an abuse of discretion standard.

 

Civil Procedure > ... > Summary Judgment > Entitlement as Matter of Law > Appropriateness

Evidence > Admissibility > Procedural Matters > Rulings on Evidence

HN3  Appropriateness

When a trial court is confronted with an evidence determination precedent to ruling on a summary judgment motion, it squarely must address the evidence decision first. Appellate review of the trial court's decisions proceeds in the same sequence, with the evidentiary issue resolved first, followed by the summary judgment determination of the trial court.

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221 N.J. 36 ; 110 A.3d 52 ; 2015 N.J. LEXIS 273 

DEBORAH F. TOWNSEND, ADMINISTRATRIX AD PROSEQUENDUM OF THE ESTATE OF ALVIN J. TOWNSEND, JR.; AL-VIN J. TOWNSEND, SR., ADMINISTRATOR AD PROSEQUENDUM OF THE ESTATE OF ALVIN J. TOWNSEND, JR.; AND ALVIN J. TOWNSEND, JR., DECEASED, PLAINTIFFS-RESPONDENTS, v. NOAH PIERRE AN INDIVIDUAL; JEAN HI-LAIREMONT, AN INDIVIDUAL; THE PRECISION DENTAL SPECIALIST, LLC; LEONARD H. JUROS, AN INDIVIDUAL; JANET L. JUROS, AN INDIVIDUAL; TOWNSHIP OF WILL-INGBORO; AND BOARD OF CHOSEN FREEHOLDERS OF THE COUNTY OF BURLINGTON, DEFENDANTS, AND GARLAND PROPERTY MANAGEMENT, LLC; AND SUNSET FAMILY DENTAL, LLC, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.

Prior History: On certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division, whose opinion is reported at 429 N.J. Super. 522, 60 A.3d 800 (2013) [1] .

Townsend v. Pierre, 429 N.J. Super. 522, 60 A.3d 800, 2013 N.J. Super. LEXIS 31 (App.Div., 2013)