Personal injury lawyers in New Jersey have learned that the state appellate court recently allowed a student to proceed with a personal injury lawsuit against Camden County College after finding that the college did not provide sufficient testimony for a summary judgment.
One early morning in March of 2010, Zachary Kavanaugh, a student at the college, slipped on a patch of ice on a sidewalk in one of the campus’s parking lots. Kavanaugh fell and fractured his ankle. Two of the school’s security officers who came to help him nearly fell trying to navigate the ice themselves. Kavanaugh was taken to a nearby hospital in an ambulance and the security officers alerted the facilities department about the dangerous sidewalk. The sidewalk had not yet been treated that day, but workers immediately came after Kavanaugh’s fall to salt and sand the patch.
In the trial that followed, the college moved for summary judgment, claiming that the institution had no responsibility over the dangerous sidewalk, as they were unaware of the situation. Citing a state Supreme Court decision in the 1985 case of Kolitch v. Lindedahl, the college claimed that its actions in keeping the campus grounds safe were not palpably unreasonable, which would release the college as a public entity from liability for a dangerous property condition, according to the Tort Claims Act.
The night before Kavanaugh’s accident, it had not snowed, but the temperatures had fluctuated enough to cause melting and refreezing after an earlier storm. Because there was no visible snow, the facilities department did not follow its written snow plan, which would have included salting and sanding dangerous spots across the campus. The director of the facilities department testified that she did not have any records of the work done the day that Kavanaugh fell on the ice. The department’s normal procedure for a similar day would include workers checking for ice and dangerous patches early in the morning.
Originally, a Camden County superior court judge granted the summary judgment motion, finding that the college’s actions were not palpably unreasonable, because the campus facilities team’s normal procedure had 6–8 staff members walking the grounds, starting at about 6 a.m., to check for weather-related dangers. Now, however, the Appellate Division judges have ruled that Kavanaugh’s case can move forward because the lack of records for that day’s work in the facilities department, and the fact that workers had not sanded the icy patch Kavanaugh encountered despite allegedly checking the grounds for two hours, indicated the college’s liability in not removing the danger from the campus grounds.
Call Your Lawyer
Winter is a time for ice, cold and snow, and every person or institution has a responsibility to ensure their property is safe for everyone else. At Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, our personal injury lawyers in New Jersey represent clients who have been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, especially as we head into winter. If you believe you have a personal injury case, contact an HCK attorney for a free, no-strings consultation today.