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ARTICLE ID 168786

School liability - Plaintiff police officer falls on hazardous roadway on school premises - Labral tear - Right rotator cuff tear - Displaced clavicle fractures - Three surgeries.

Mercer County, NJ

The plaintiff police officer contended that he was dispatched to the defendant private school because underage juveniles were having an unauthorized party in one of the apartments on campus. The plaintiff met with the school’s security officer, who advised plaintiff that there were about ten unauthorized juveniles running around on campus with beer.

At the time of the accident, the defendant had one main road (Campus Drive) that went through the campus. All of Campus Drive was paved blacktop except for about 50 feet of roadway, which consisted of compacted dirt, gravel and rocks. The plaintiff walked along the dirt road portion of Campus Drive and eventually stopped three juveniles for questioning. As the plaintiff was questioning the three juveniles the plaintiff heard the school’s security guard yell "Grab him, he just assaulted a teacher!" The plaintiff saw a juvenile run past him like a flash, and the plaintiff immediately started running after this juvenile. After plaintiff took about five steps on the dirt roadway, his foot slipped into a large pot hole and he fell to the ground. The plaintiff was 6’3" and weighed ________ pounds. The plaintiff described the hole as about 18 inches in diameter and four inches deep. His foot slipped on the loose gravel on the dirt roadway.

The "Fireman’s Rule" had been abrogated and the plaintiff’s case was not barred. The plaintiff presented three eyewitnesses who testified that the dirt roadway was always in disrepair with pot holes, depressions and cracks. These witnesses testified that the defendant never repaired the holes. The plaintiff also presented a liability expert, who opined that the dirt roadway was a dangerous condition that violated various federal ADA regulations, as well as several ASTM standards.

The plaintiff’s liability expert also opined that the defendant’s dirt roadway violated a local ordinance, which required all pathways and driveways to be paved. The plaintiff’s police supervisor testified that he drove to the accident scene after the accident and observed the dirt roadway to be in disrepair with lots of pot holes.

The defendant’s facilities manager testified that he inspects the school’s grounds at least once per day. He testified that depressions have, in the past, developed on the dirt roadway, but he always had them repaired or patched. After the plaintiff’s accident, the defendant’s facilities manager testified that he inspected the dirt roadway (Campus Drive) and saw no pot holes or dangerous conditions. The defendant also called the security officer who was present on the night of the accident, who testified that he saw no pot holes or depressions on the dirt roadway after plaintiff fell.

The plaintiff contended that he sustained right arm and shoulder injuries, including a displaced clavicle fracture, rotator cuff tear and a labrum tear. The plaintiff underwent three surgeries: an ORIF of the displaced clavicle fracture; surgical repair of the labral tear; and surgical repair of the rotator cuff. The plaintiff is right-handed.

The plaintiff returned to work as a police officer, but maintained that his injuries prevented him from returning to work at his second job stocking shelves at a supermarket. The plaintiff had worked at the supermarket for approximately 20 years. The plaintiff’s vocational/economic expert opined that the plaintiff’s past and future wage losses were $________.

The jury found that the defendant was not negligent.

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