PATERSON INJURY LAWYER SUES CITY FOR MAN’S FALL INTO POTHOLE
An interesting case brought by a Paterson injury lawyer was decided recently. On September 30, 2011, at 9:30 PM, Rene Alicea exited a parked car. He walked around to the driver’s door to bid his daughter goodbye. Then he fell into a pothole located near the center of Richmond Avenue in Paterson.
It had been raining earlier. The pothole was filled with water. According to Alicea, that made the pothole indistinguishable from the surrounding black asphalt. When Alicea’s foot fell into the hole, he twisted his right knee.
Alicea’s daughter helped him cross the street and enter his building. He was able to limp up to his apartment. Alicea was diagnosed with impaction fractures and a partial ACL tear of the right knee.
Alicea hired the Paterson injury lawyer to sue the city. Paterson claimed it was immune from liability. The judge agreed with Paterson. He dismissed the case without a trial.
The Paterson injury lawyer appealed. Alicea claimed he knew that a 100 foot stretch of Richmond Avenue had been ripped up. It had nearly fifteen potholes for a few months. He explained the road began getting ruined at the end of 2010. Potholes began to appear in the spring. By early September, the holes were very large. Alicea estimated the pothole in which he fell was thirteen to fifteen inches deep, thirteen to fourteen inches wide, and thirty-six inches long.
The appeals court discussed the New Jersey Torts Claims Act (TCA) in its ruling. The TCA provides that governmental units like cities are immune from being sued for accident injuries, absent a specific section in the TCA that allows a suit in a given situation.
Alicea asserted the street contained a known dangerous condition. Under the TCA, a public entity can be responsible for injuries caused by a dangerous condition on public property. However, to establish such liability, the victim must prove at least one of two things.
A victim can recover if he proves that the negligence (carelessness) of an employee of the city created the dangerous condition. A victim can also recover if he proves that the city knew, or should have known, of the dangerous condition long enough to take protective measures, but failed to do so.
The appellate court stated that the pothole in question occurred naturally. Paterson did not cause them. The change of weather conditions from winter to spring causes potholes.
The judges further claimed that Alicea provided no valid proof that Paterson had received any complaints about the pothole.
The Paterson injury lawyer maintained that the size of the pothole made the dangerous condition obvious. Paterson should have known about it, even if no one told it.
But the judges were not persuaded. No matter how large it was, the judges wanted sufficient proof that the pothole had existed for such a length of time that the city should have known about it.
The appeals court therefore upheld the dismissal of Alicea’s lawsuit. The Paterson injury lawyer could not obtain compensation for Alicea’s injuries.
I disagree with this decision. A jury should have been allowed to hear Alicea’s testimony, and decide if Paterson violated the legal standard. The Paterson injury lawyer should appeal to the New Jersey Supreme Court.