NJ Court Outlines Role of Judge and Jury in Tort Claims Act Suits
by Michael A. Cifelli on April 19, 2013
Under the New Jersey Tort Claims Act, the standard of liability applied to a public entity depends on whether it exercised discretionary decision-making or performed ministerial acts. In Henebema v. South Jersey Transportation Authority, the Appellate Division considered whether a judge or jury should resolve that threshold dispute.
The distinction under the NJ Tort Claims Act is important because a public entity is not liable for an exercise of discretion unless its actions were “palpably unreasonable.” Meanwhile, actions deemed ministerial in nature are held to the ordinary negligence standard.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff, Janet Henebema, was injured on the Atlantic City Expressway during icy conditions. While she was not seriously harmed during the initial collision, she was tragically hit by another vehicle while she was standing outside of her vehicle on the Expressway. The second accident took place before troopers arrived on the initial accident scene and was one of several accidents on the same stretch of roadway during a short period of time.
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