Robert M. Hanlon, Sr., obtained a defense verdict on behalf of Domino’s Pizza LLC and its employee after a two week wrongful death trial in Middlesex County. A fifty-nine year old woman stepped off of a sidewalk, mid-block, and entered the roadway behind a Domino’s Pizza tractor-trailer that had double-parked in front of a store to which it was making a delivery. The tractor-trailer entirely blocked the right lane of a four-lane highway, with the tail end of the trailer nearly encroaching upon the left lane of travel. The decedent was struck near the double yellow line by a motorist coming up from behind the tractor-trailer, and was thrown into the path of a second vehicle approaching from the opposite direction. Plaintiff’s counsel argued that the tractor-trailer distracted the motorist and caused him to give the truck a wide berth as he went around it because, he testified, he was concerned that the operator of the truck might exit through the driver’s side door as he was passing. Plaintiff’s counsel emphasized that double-parking was in violation of New Jersey statute, and that in this case the driver and his helper had done so purely as a matter of convenience. An emotional pitch was made on behalf of the decedent’s teenage son, also the administrator of her estate.
The defense developed the fact that there was a marked, well-lit crosswalk available for the decedent’s use a short distance away from where she decided to cross. This had the effect of neutralizing plaintiff’s “illegal conduct” argument, as the decedent herself had shown a disregard for her own safety in order to save herself a few extra steps.
After ninety minutes of deliberation, the jury found that the truck driver — and vicariously, Domino’s — were negligent, but that this negligence was not a proximate cause of the accident.