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$________ Municipal Liability – Falling tree strikes vehicle with passengers – Wrongful death of one passenger – Paralysis of other occupant.

Warren County Superior Court

In this matter, the family of a woman killed by a fallen ailanthus tree pursued a Portee claim and a wrongful death action.

On September 19, ________, Edward M. and his wife, Pamela M., 35, and three children were traveling on Route 46 in White Township, New Jersey when a tree that leaned over the roadway broke, crashing through the roof of their vehicle. Edward M. sustained severe permanent injuries, including paralysis from his waist down. Pamela M. was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash. Edward M. requires ongoing medical care due to his injuries. At the time of incident, New Jersey was in a state of Emergency caused by Hurricane Isabel.

Edward M. filed suit for himself and the estate of his late wife in the Superior Court of New Jersey’s Middlesex County division. The matter was later removed to Warren County. The plaintiff sought recovery from the New Jersey Department of Transportation for failing to identify and rectify a hazardous condition (the tree). Damages were sought for the loss of Pamela M. and Edward M.’s ongoing medical costs. Estate damages were governed by the New Jersey Wrongful Death and Survival Action, which limits the loss of decedent’s services to their pecuniary value. No settlement offer was made initially.

The plaintiff asserted that the New Jersey DOT should have, through reasonable inspection, been able to identify the tree as a potential fall hazard. The State denied plaintiff’s allegations, asserting that the tree was healthy and had no signs of structural weakness.The matter was mediated before retired Judge John Boyle. A settlement was thereafter reached for $________.

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