The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled on May 14 that a man who had attempted to sue an electric company because he hit a pole with his truck may pursue the suit. The Long Valley man was injured in the 2003 car accident when he ran into a light pole during a snowstorm, according to court documents. The ruling was unanimous.
The man, now age 58, has claimed that the electric company placed the pole in a dangerous location. He says that the pole on County Road 513 was negligently placed, which caused him to run into it during the inclement weather.
Court officials noted that the pole had been the source of other accidents, with drivers running into it between 1989 and 1998. One of those accidents resulted in a fatality. The pole is located on a parcel of private property, and it was placed just a few feet off the road, according to the court documents. It was put there as early as 1937, according to company records, and has been replaced three times as a result of the accidents.
The court confirmed that the pole could potentially pose a hazard, considering the history of wrecks that have occurred at that specific site. The electric company may be required to move the pole if it doesn't present an undue economic burden.
The man who filed the case said that he suffered extensive injuries as a result of the crash. He broke most of his ribs and suffered from massive internal trauma, according to the complaint, which has left him with residual breathing troubles.
Although the Court reinstated the lawsuit against the electric company, judges said that a suit against the county itself would likely be harder to prove. The electric company is required to keep its equipment in safe and operational condition, but the man only stands a chance against the county if he can prove that the property itself was somehow dangerous.
The case is important because it refutes the previously bestowed immunity that had been given to the electric company before the matter reached the State Supreme Court. The electric company refused to comment on the matter because it is still in judicial process.
Source: The Star-Ledger, "N.J. Supreme Court: Man who crashed truck into pole during snowstorm allowed to sue electric company," Ben Horowitz, May 14, 2012