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Whaley v. County of Hudson

Decided: November 29, 1976.

HELEN WHALEY AND DARIUS WHALEY, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
COUNTY OF HUDSON, A BODY POLITIC OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANT



Bilder, J.s.c.

Bilder

This is a motion by the County of Hudson to dismiss a complaint on the ground that the county has immunity under the New Jersey Tort Claims Act, N.J.S.A. 59:1-1 et seq.

On May 3, 1973, while crossing Communipaw Avenue in the crosswalk at Kennedy Boulevard, plaintiff was injured when she fell in a pothole. Plaintiff alleges the pothole was a dangerous condition of which the county had actual or constructive notice and which resulted from a failure to properly maintain the street. She seeks to recover damages for the injury she sustained.

The procedural requirements of chapter 8 of the act as to notice and time have been duly complied with.

This motion raises the question of whether the Tort Claims Act has created governmental liability for defects resulting from a failure to maintain a roadway. Prior to the passage of the Tort Claims Act, a public entity was liable for defects caused by faulty repair or construction but not for defects caused by wear and tear. See Milstrey v. Hackensack , 6 N.J. 400, 409 (1951).

The liability of a public entity for dangerous conditions of its property is provided for in chapter 4 of the act. One uniform standard is set for all publicly owned or controlled land. The act extends to public entities the usual obligations of private parties with respect to dangerous conditions on their property, subject to a special provision in recognition of the vast amount of property the public entities own. Comment to N.J.S.A. 59:4-2, Report of the Attorney General's

Task Force on Sovereign Immunity , 220-221 (1972). N.J.S.A. 59:4-2 reads as follows:

A public entity is liable for injury caused by a condition of its property if the plaintiff establishes that the property was in dangerous condition at the time of the injury, that the injury was proximately caused by the dangerous condition, that the dangerous condition created a reasonably foreseeable risk of the kind of injury which was incurred, and that either:

a. a negligent or wrongful act or omission of an employee of the public entity within the scope of his employment created the dangerous condition; or

b. a public entity had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition under section 59:4-3 a sufficient time prior to the injury to have taken measures to protect against the dangerous condition.

Nothing in this section shall be construed to impose liability upon a public entity for a dangerous condition of its public property if the action the entity took to protect against the condition or the ...


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