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ARTICLE ID 182574

$________ - MOTOR VEHICLE NEGLIGENCE - AUTO/TRUCK COLLISION - TRAILER BEHIND DUMP TRUCK DECOUPLES, CROSSES HIGHWAY, AND STRIKES MINI-BUS DRIVEN BY PLAINTIFF TRANSPORTING SPECIAL NEEDS STUDENTS - FAILURE TO REMOVE DEFECTIVE TRAILER FROM USE - TRAPPED PLAINTIFF NEEDS EXTRACTION FROM BUS - BILATERAL FEMUR FRACTURES - FOOT AND RIB FRACTURES - MULTIPLE SURGERIES.

Ocean County, NJ

The plaintiff, a 58-year-old widow, who was self- sufficient and self-supporting, was operating a Jackson Township school bus, transporting her special needs students, contended that she was suddenly confronted with a runaway trailer that smashed into her vehicle head-on in her lane of traffic. The plaintiff’s vehicle was heavily damaged with both of her legs being trapped under the dashboard causing the bilateral femur fractures and foot fracture, together with several rib fractures. She underwent a total of seven operative procedures including bilateral femur surgeries; complications included infection; anemia; hypothyroidism; breathing difficulties and occasional tachycardia. She had a total of 27 hospital days or same-day surgery visits; ________ days of rehabilitation hospital admissions; ________ days of home health care; ________ physical therapy sessions and 37 doctor’s visits. The medical specials were in excess of $________.

An extensive investigation was conducted with regard to the cause of this very serious motor vehicle accident by both the Jackson Township Police Department and the New Jersey State Police Transportation Safety Bureau (Truck and Bus Unit), at the Ocean County Garage, where the vehicles were impounded and examined by them. The chain of events started with the trailer that decoupled. The State Police investigation found that the hitch could be separated from the ball by simply pressing down on it with hand pressure, decoupling the device. This action mimicked a vehicle traveling over a roadway with bumps or defects.

The next safety device that failed was the safety chains. The safety chains were undersized for the weight of the trailer, resulting in the chains snapping and the trailer running free. The final safety device was a dead man’s brake, which is a cable attached to the tow truck and the trailer. In the event of a "break-away," the cable then is pulled from the trailer and activates an onboard, battery-powered electric four-wheel brake system, which would have stopped the trailer once engaged (similar to a safety clip used with treadmills). This braking system failed since the two front brakes were inoperative. The front axle right side brake wires were cut and the front axle left side brake wires were missing.

The plaintiff contended that, in addition to negligence, there was gross negligence rising to the level of a claim for punitive damages since this vehicle was obviously not road-worthy and that it never should have been permitted to leave the yard without appropriate pre-use inspection systems in place to insure safe operations.

The case settled prior to trial for $________.

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