NJ town admits road was dangerous — but injured woman can’t hold them responsible
RIDGEFIELD — This small Bergen County borough can’t be held responsible for injuries suffered by a woman who tripped on a street’s uneven pavement even though borough officials admitted that the road was in dangerous disrepair.
An appellate court panel on Tuesday upheld a trial judge's decision to rule against Patricia Shilinsky, who in 2011 tripped over a major road depression in front of her son’s home on Abbot Avenue, a residential street. She injured her wrist and right knee, required surgery and six months of physical therapy.
Part of the reason she lost the case is that state law sets a high bar for negligence cases against government agencies.
Judges pointed to her jaywalking — she crossed the middle of the street from her parked car instead of walking to a crosswalk — as a reason why the borough can’t be held responsible.
The road depression ran the entire length of the block. The part where she tripped was at least 28-inches long, at least 8-inches wide, and 3-inches deep, court records state.
Shilinsky’s son had complained about the condition of the road in 2008. And the borough’s public works supervisor and engineer testified that they knew about the dip and agreed that it was dangerous for pedestrians.
But the judges said the dangerous condition didn’t rise to the level of being “palpably unreasonable” because streets are made for automobiles, not pedestrians, and cars would be able to safely drive over the road depression.
The borough’s DPW budget that year was $150,000 and officials testified that the municipality has 27-miles of roadway to maintain.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-438-1015 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.