Northfield, NJ – Barry Cohen recently handled a personal injury case where he secured an award for $547,000. The client was thrown from his bike after hitting a pothole at the foot of a concrete driveway, which was camouflaged under oak flowers that had fallen from nearby trees. The 54-year-old bicyclist’s primary injuries included a fractured right hip, which subsequently required hip replacement. Suit was brought against the adjacent property owner and the township that owned, controlled, and was responsible for maintaining and repairing the street.
During the jury trial, counsel Barry Cohen claimed that the pothole was caused by the homeowner’s construction of the driveway, which undermined the street. As such, the homeowner was therefore under an affirmative duty to warn bicyclists and pedestrians of the danger. Moreover, since the homeowner could not repair damage to a public street that he did not own or control, the plaintiff alleged that the homeowner negligently failed to alert the township of the pothole so that public entity could patch it.
In response, the homeowner denied having created the pothole and claimed he had notified the township of the issue. The township claimed that the homeowner had never notified it of the pothole prior to the incident, that the street damage did not constitute a dangerous condition of public property, and that, even if the pothole was found to be dangerous, the township’s failure to fix the pothole before the incident was not “palpably unreasonable,” which is the standard that applies to public entity liability.
Prior to the trial, the insurance company for the homeowner offered a settlement of $50,000, while still denying fault. The township did not offer anything. Through Barry Cohen’s diligent efforts on behalf of the client, the jury found the homeowner and the township equally at fault. They found that the plaintiff was not comparatively at fault and awarded $500,000 in pain and suffering damages, $25,000 for loss of consortium by the injured plaintiff’s wife, and $22,000.00 in non-reimbursed economic losses for a total verdict of $547,000.