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Court Reinforces High Standard For Proving Dangerous Condition (NJ)

November 7, 2019

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<p style="text-align: justify;">In <em><a href="">Deravil v. Pantaleone</a>,</em>  the plaintiff was struck by a motor vehicle while crossing the street outside of a designated cross-walk at night while wearing dark clothing.  The area where the plaintiff was struck lacked functioning street lights, and the trees and utility poles allegedly obstructed the view of the road for both pedestrians and drivers.  Additionally, at the point of impact, the sidewalk abruptly stopped, which may have led to the plaintiff entering the roadway. Plaintiffs argued that the road was a dangerous condition, and Township and the County were liable for the plaintiff’s death under New Jersey Torts Claims Act (TCA).</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The court dismissed the claims against the Township and County, finding that the road was not in a dangerous condition and that the plaintiff chose to take the risk.  Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the failure to use a cross-walk does not eliminate liability for creating a dangerous condition, and the abrupt termination of the sidewalk could be interpreted as a signal that a pedestrian must cross the street to continue their path.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">On appeal, the Appellate Court noted that, under the TCA, a dangerous condition means a condition of property that creates a substantial risk of injury when used with due care in a manner in which it is reasonably foreseeable that it will be used. In this case, no jury could conclude that the road was in a dangerous condition and the plaintiff’s use of the road was so objectively unreasonable that the condition itself did not cause the accident.   This case is important because it highlights the standards that a plaintiff must meet to prove the existence of a dangerous condition under the TCA.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Thanks to Heather Aquino for her contribution to this post.  Please email <a href="">Georgia Coats</a> with any questions.</p>

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