When Confronted With Evidence That Defendant Could Have Avoided Accident, a Finding That Weather Caused Accident is Inappropriate. Court Also Affirmed Lower Court’s Ruling That Strict Adherence to Specific City’s Notice of Claim Form Was Not Required.

Marshall Dennehey

Angeles v. Ruiz, 2023 WL 3669914, No. A-3751-20 (N.J. Super. App. Div. May 26, 2023)

The plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle accident with a snowplow driver for the City of Kearney. While approaching an intersection with a stop sign, the snowplow driver applied the brakes, but the snowplow skidded into the intersection, striking the plaintiff. A responding police officer noted that there was heavy and new snow at the time but, also, that the snowplow driver’s inattentiveness could have been a causal factor.

The plaintiff presented expert evidence that had the snowplow driver begun braking earlier and had been at a slower speed, the plow could have avoided skidding. The defendant opposed this by arguing there was no regulation or statute requiring a driver to begin braking at a certain distance prior to a stop sign. The Appellate Division ruled that all of these competing facts should have precluded summary judgment in the defendant’s favor and reversed the trial court’s ruling.

The defendant also sought to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint for failing to properly file a Notice of Claim. However, the court ruled that the information given to the City of Kearney’s Law Division about the incident provided sufficient notice to the municipality of the claim and incident. Therefore, strict adherence to and answering every question within Kearney’s specific Notice of Claim Form was not necessary and failure to do this did not constitute failure to properly notify a municipality under New Jersey procedural law.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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