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Mavrikidis v. Petullo

New Jersey Supreme Court
707 A.2d 977 (1998)


Facts

Karl Pascarello (defendant), owner of the Clar Pine auto service center, hired the Petullo Brothers, Inc. (defendant) to supply asphalt and concrete to Clar Pine for the purposes of renovating the station’s parking lot and service area. Gerald Petullo (defendant) drove the company’s dump truck to Newark Asphalt Corporation (defendant) where it was loaded with nearly 11 tons of hot asphalt. Petullo was transporting the asphalt to Clar Pine when he drove through a red light and struck a vehicle driven by Alice Mavrikidis (plaintiff). Petullo lost control of the truck. The dump truck struck a light pole, overturned, and spilled hot asphalt onto Mavrikidis’ car causing her to suffer severe burn injuries. Mavrikidis filed suit against a number of individuals and entities. At trial, an expert witness testified that had the dump truck not been overloaded with asphalt, Petullo would not have lost control of the truck. The jury found that Petullo negligently operated the dump truck which proximately caused the accident. Further, the jury concluded that Clar Pine was vicariously liable for the actions of Petullo. Finally, the jury found the Newark Asphalt was negligent in overloading the dump truck. The jury affixed percentages of negligence to all liable defendants, including attributing 89 percent of the fault to Clar Pine. Clar Pine appealed. The appellate division reversed the trial court’s judgment and held there was insufficient evidence to support a finding that Clar Pine was vicariously liable for the actions of Petullo. Mavrikidis appealed. The New Jersey Supreme Court granted certiorari to review.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Garibaldi, J.)

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