The opinion of the court was delivered by DREIER, J.A.D.
Plaintiff has appealed from an order of the Law Division denying reinstatement and restoration to the trial list of plaintiff's product liability complaint against defendant The Hull Corporation (Hull), a foreign corporation. This case requires us to interpret Coons v. American Honda Motor Co. Inc., 96 N.J. 419 (1984), cert. den. ___ U.S. ___, 105 S.Ct. 808, 83 L.Ed.2d 800 (1985), (Coons II). Plaintiff's claim would have been barred by the statute of limitation, untolled by N.J.S.A. 2A:14-22
The Appellate Division further noted that the trial judge "directed that the disposition of the case await a further presentation of evidence." In effect, the trial judge had ruled under R. 4:9-3 governing the relation back of amendatory pleadings. On the initial appeal, this ruling was rejected as an incorrect application of R. 4:9-3 and of the discovery rule described in Lopez v. Swyer, 62 N.J. 267 (1973), also relied upon in part by the trial judge. Our opinion, rendered May 17, 1984 made no reference to either the tolling provisions of N.J.S.A. 2A:14-22 or the interpretation of the statute in Coons I, since those issues had not then been raised.
Plaintiff thereafter applied for a rehearing, contending that this court failed to apply Coons I. This petition was denied on June 7, 1984 without explanation, whereupon plaintiff filed a second petition for rehearing based upon the then-recent decision in Coons II which substantially modified the effect of Coons I. In response to these motions we noted that our denial was "without prejudice to plaintiff's right to apply for reinstatement of her complaint in the Law Division on the ground relied on herein."
Unfortunately, the judge to whom the reinstatement motion was then made misconceived the import of Coons II, the effect of the Appellate Division's initial reversal of the original trial judge's decision and our later rulings on the motions for reconsideration. The import of our decisions on the reconsideration motions was that since the matter of the tolling of the statute of limitations had not been brought before the Law Division or Appellate Division, the issue could be the basis of an application to reinstate the complaint. Thus, at the time of the reapplication
Since a general principle of law is that procedural dismissals are not favored, cf. Marder v. Realty Const. Co., 84 N.J.Super. 313, 319 (App.Div.), aff'd 43 N.J. 508 (1964), and since R. 4:50-1(a) provides a method for relief within one year, we assume that the trial judge would have reinstated the complaint upon a determination that such a mistake had been made. Cf. Edgerton v. Edgerton, 203 N.J.Super. 160, 172-73 (App.Div. 1985), applying R. 4:50-1(f). Therefore, except for any problems insinuated by Coons I and II relating to the application of N.J.S.A. 2A:14-22 the trial judge should have granted plaintiff's application.
Defendant further asserts that Hartford Ins. Co. v. Allstate Ins. Co., 68 N.J. 430, 434 (1975) has established a principle that a change of law or interpretation of law is not a "extraordinary circumstance" so "as to justify relief from a final judgment where the time to appeal has expired." This principle, however, is inapplicable here. Coons II modified Coons I and specifically directed that if a final judgment had not been entered by August 3, 1983 the statute of limitations had not yet run. The fact that a final judgment was entered against plaintiff in the interim did not blunt the impact of Coons II, even in light of Hartford Ins. Co. This is not a case where after a trial on the merits a change in law occurred that would have affected a plaintiff's claim. This, rather, is a classic case of where relief should be granted from a judgment under R. 4:50-1(a).
Since plaintiff's application to the trial court was within the period permitted by Coons II for the running of the statute of limitations, we find the denial of the reinstatement of the complaint to have been a mistaken exercise of discretion under R. 4:50-1(a). Plaintiff at the time of the application before the
The order appealed from is reversed. Pursuant to R. 4:50-1(a), the prior order of the Law Division dismissing the complaint on statute of limitations grounds is vacated, and this matter is remanded to the Law Division for further proceedings. We do not retain jurisdiction.