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Cherry Hill Personal Injury Lawyers: New Jersey Court Upholds Dismissal of Motorcyclist’s Lawsuit against Municipality

On November 4, 2015, in an unpublished decision, the New Jersey Appellate Division upheld a trial court’s dismissal of a motorcylist’s lawsuit against a municipality.

In Bunero v. City of Jersey City, Docket No. A-4438-13T1 (N.J. App. Div. Nov. 4, 2015), the plaintiff alleged that on July 4, 2010, he was riding his motorcycle in Jersey City when he was rear-ended by another vehicle propelling him to the side of the road. The wheels of his motorcycle then ran up against the curb and the right floorboard skidded across the top of the curb, when the plaintiff’s right leg struck the nozzle cap of a fire hydrant, which was located on the sidewalk adjacent to the road. As a result of striking the fire hydrant, the plaintiff sustained an open compound fracture of his right leg.

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against Jersey City asserting a claim under the New Jersey Tort Claims Act, N.J.S.A. 59:1-1 et seq. (the “TCA”), alleging that the fire hydrant that he struck constituted a dangerous condition of Jersey City’s property. The trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s claim, finding that the fire hydrant did not constitute a dangerous condition of property, that the fire hydrant did not create a reasonably foreseeable risk of the kind of injury that occurred, and that the plaintiff had failed to establish that the City’s actions regarding the hydrant were palpably unreasonable.

The Appellate Division found that the trial judge erred by determining as a matter of law that that the fire hydrant was not “in dangerous condition at the time of the injury” since the evidence proffered by plaintiff was sufficient to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the subject hydrant constituted a dangerous condition as that term is defined in the TCA. The Appellate Division explained:

Thus, plaintiff presented sufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude that the hydrant’s proximity to the curb line posed a danger to a person on a motorcycle who veers close to the curb line. A jury also could conclude that it was reasonably foreseeable that a motorcyclist who rode his vehicle close to the curb could lean over and strike the hydrant. Simply put, a jury could find that the hydrant “created a reasonably foreseeable risk of the kind of injury which was incurred.”

Slip Op. at 10 (citing N.J.S.A. 59:4-2).

However, the Appellate Division found that the trial court “correctly determined as a matter of law that a reasonable jury could not find that the City’s actions regarding the subject fire hydrant were palpably unreasonable.” Id. at 14. The Appellate Division explained:

It is undisputed that the hydrant has been at its location on Communipaw Avenue since at least 1939. Plaintiff presented no evidence that the hydrant has been the cause of any incident or injury in that time. … Although plaintiff insists that movement of the fire hydrant further back from the curb line was not an impossibility, plaintiff failed to show that the City’s failure to do so was a course of action or inaction that no prudent person would approve of.

Id. at 14-15 (internal quotation and citation omitted). Upon this basis, the Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s claim.

If you were injured as the result of automobile accident in New Jersey or Pennsylvania, contact the Cherry Hill personal injury lawyers at Folkman Law today. Call 856-354-9444 or contact us online for a free case review.