The New Jersey Appellate Division recently considered the appeal of a woman who slipped and fell on icy steps at a museum entrance, injuring her back. The trial court had dismissed her lawsuit against the museum, based on the Charitable Immunity Act. The museum is a nonprofit association organized exclusively for charitable, artistic, scientific, educational, historical and cultural purposes. On the day of the accident, the museum was closed to the public. The plaintiff had been directed by her work supervisor to go to the museum to attend an educational panel discussion organized by her employer, a non-profit organization which had rented the premises for the event. She sought damages due to the negligence of the museum in failing to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition. She also argued that the museum was not engaged in any charitable purpose at the time because it had rented the facility to her employer in order to generate income. The trial judge disagreed.
The Appellate Division reversed the trial court decision, finding that the plaintiff was not a beneficiary of the museum’s charitable endeavors because she was required to be there by her employer, and therefore was not a direct recipient of the museum’s good works. Skilled attorneys know that sometimes a judge will get it wrong and that it is worth appealing that decision so that the plaintiff may have her day in court and the opportunity to be compensated for her injuries.
The New Jersey Supreme Court recently declined an opportunity to expand the “mode of operation” doctrine in a case involving a slip and fall of a customer in a KFC outlet. It upheld the Appellate Division’s reversal of a $138,643 jury award against the restaurant, which it was alleged failed to maintain a wet floor on which the plaintiff fell on her way to the restroom.
Simply stated, the mode of operation doctrine eliminates the need for an injured customer to prove that the business knew of the unsafe condition causing the accident, when the condition is caused by the way that the business operates. The case establishing the doctrine involved a slip and fall on a loose string bean that had fallen on the floor in a grocery store which allowed customers to pick their produce from an open display. Since that time, the doctrine has mainly been applied to food or drinks spilled in a self service restaurant or supermarket.
In the case against KFC, the plaintiff claimed that she slipped on a mixture of water and grease on the floor on a rainy day. She was allowed to argue to the jury that this kind of hazard is inherent in the restaurant’s method of operation, so that it did not matter whether KFC actually knew about the floor condition. Both the Appellate Division and the Supreme Court disagreed, holding that her injuries were unrelated to any self service component of KFC’s business.
While the mode of operation doctrine can serve as a useful shortcut in appropriate cases, it is crucial that any kind of accident be fully investigated as close to the time of occurrence as possible. This should include at a minimum photographing the scene and taking witness statements to bolster proof that the establishment had notice of the hazard.
If you are involved in a car accident, the other driver may claim that you were at fault. In our legal system, you are expected to operate your vehicle with reasonable care. If you do not, you may be considered to be negligent. Anyone claiming that you are at fault is obligated to prove that you were negligent to the satisfaction of a judge and a jury, in order for you to be held responsible at trial for the accident.
In New Jersey, operating a motor vehicle while using a cell phone may be a violation of law and result in you receiving a summons. If you are using a cell phone at the same time that you are involved in a car accident in New Jersey, it may be claimed that your cell phone use caused the accident and was negligent.
In a lawsuit, the other driver would be able to obtain your cell phone records to prove that you were, in fact, using your cell phone near the time of the accident. The other driver may then argue that using the cell phone interfered with your ability to operate your vehicle with reasonable care. For example, when you are using your cell phone while driving, you may take your eyes off the road to text or dial a number, be distracted by an important conversation or drive with only one hand.
It is important to use your common sense and be careful behind the wheel. If you have hands free capability, that may make the cell phone use in a car safer. If not, your best bet is to pull over if you need to take a call that cannot wait. In this way, you can avoid legal liability for car accidents as well as traffic tickets.
As we have said in prior posts, it is difficult to recover damages in a personal injury case against a public entity due to the New Jersey Tort Claims Act, which sets a high threshold for plaintiffs to clear in negligence cases.
In a recent unreported decision, the Appellate Division upheld the trial court’s decision dismissing a lawsuit filed against New Jersey Transit, in which it was claimed that a commuter slipped and fell on black ice while walking on a train station platform. The plaintiff stated that he did not notice icy conditions prior to his fall. On the day before the fall, New Jersey Transit did salt the platform due to weather conditions, and on the day of the fall, four NJT employees inspected the platform for ice.
The court noted that the plaintiff had not obtained an expert’s opinion that New Jersey Transit was grossly negligent, and found that New Jersey Transit was not legally required to “attain the acme of perfection of ‘broom swept’ platforms”. Therefore, New Jersey Transit was held immune from liability. It should be noted that few property owners, whether public or private, would be held to a standard of perfection in any event. Rather, the owner must act with reasonable care.
Here are a few tips if you are involved in an automobile accident:
The best accident lawyer establishes a personal connection with you from the very first consultation.
The best accident lawyer will spend the necessary time with you to get to know you and the details of your case. He will personally interview you and discuss the various aspects of your accident with you, not delegate this to a paralegal who is not responsible to you for your case. He will go to the scene of the accident to get a better understanding of what happened. He will learn about your family, employment and other important details that will help him to paint a more complete picture for the insurance company. The best accident lawyers in Middlesex County always investigate all responsible parties and all available insurance companies, and do their best to obtain the maximum possible compensation for you.
Competent accident lawyers in Middlesex County will see to it that the accident scene and the vehicle damage is photographed, that witness statements are obtained, and police records and reports are secured. They will use the internet and other technology to gather information useful to your case. The best accident lawyers will help you to obtain the treatment and diagnostic testing needed to prove your case. They will secure all of the necessary hospital and medical records to document your case to the insurance company. The best accident lawyers will be available to take your call rather than handing you off to a staff member, and will personally call you to keep you informed of important case developments.
The best accident lawyers in Middlesex County know how to secure the best expert witnesses to assist in the analysis and presentation of your case. Those attorneys will use their maturity and experience to engage the insurance company in a positive way, to have fair and candid conversations with the adjuster rather than letting their egos get in the way, so that a prompt and reasonable settlement is recovered for you.
If a claim cannot be settled, the best accident lawyers are ready to go to trial for you, putting in the time, preparation and hard work needed to maximize your chances of obtaining a recovery, and ensuring the best possible result. The best accident lawyers in Middlesex County know how to talk to a jury and to present your case in a clear and convincing manner that commands attention and respect. You can expect all of this and more, from the best accident lawyers in Middlesex County.
Please call today for a free consultation on your case.
Under New Jersey law, every auto insurance policy holder has the option of choosing between two different thresholds as a part of their policy, which affect their ability to sue for pain and suffering. If the “no tort threshold” or “no threshold” is chosen, then their right to sue for personal injury is not limited. However, if the “verbal threshold” or “lawsuit threshold” is chosen, then the policyholder’s right to sue is limited. There is a significant additional insurance premium charged to an insured who selects the “no threshold”.
In order to recover damages for personal injuries in an auto accident, an individual bound by the lawsuit threshold must prove one of the following six types of injuries:
Thus, the common neck and back sprains sustained in many auto accidents alone will not qualify as meeting the lawsuit threshold.
However, with the advance of sophisticated diagnostic testing, medical specialists are often able to discern a physical condition which will satisfy the threshold. Selecting the correct medical expert for your case is therefore critical.
It should be noted that if you do not have your own auto insurance policy but live in the household of an auto insurance policy holder who has selected the lawsuit threshold, you will be bound by that threshold. Please contact us for further information.