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Johnson v. Township of Southampton

Decided: March 20, 1978.

THOMAS JOHNSON AND CHERYL JOHNSON, HIS WIFE, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF SOUTHAMPTON, COUNTY OF BURLINGTON, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT, AND STEVEN P. REAMER, COUNTY OF BURLINGTON AND STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANTS



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Burlington County.

Fritz, Botter and Ard. The opinion of the court was delivered by Ard, J.A.D.

Ard

The sole question involved in this appeal is whether the Township of Southampton is entitled to immunity from plaintiffs' claims by virtue of our Tort Claims Act, N.J.S.A. 59:1-1 et seq.

Plaintiff Thomas Johnson instituted an action against the Township of Southampton, Burlington County, New Jersey, and Steven P. Reamer for serious personal injuries arising out of a motorcycle accident which occurred on October 20, 1972 at the intersection of Retreat Road and Burr's Mill Road in the Township of Southampton, Burlington County. His wife sued per quod.

Johnson was a passenger on the motorcycle being driven by defendant Steven P. Reamer. It was approximately 8:20 P.M., and it was dark. They were proceeding at approximately 35 miles an hour in a general easterly direction on Retreat Road. Retreat Road was described by plaintiff as a blacktop highway which was two lanes wide. It connected with Burr's Mill Road, which runs in a north-south direction at right angles to it forming a "T" intersection. Burr's Mill Road is the top of the "T" and Retreat Road the stem. At the junction of the "T" Retreat Road forms a "Y" permitting traffic to go left or right entering into Burr's Mill Road. The intersection is approximated in this fashion: mean-Y. Within the upper arms of the mean-Y is a triangular grassy plot.

Reamer, apparently unfamiliar with the area, unknowingly approached Burr's Mill Road and followed the road as it curved to the right entering the intersection but failed to

make the right turn at Burr's Mill Road and continued across Burr's Mill Road crashing into a guardrail on the easterly side of the road, causing both occupants to be thrown from the motorcycle.

After instituting suit it was ascertained that neither the County nor the State had jurisdiction or control of the roads in question and each was granted summary judgment. Plaintiffs also elected to voluntarily dismiss their complaint as to defendant Steven P. Reamer.

The Township of Southampton moved for summary judgment asserting that plaintiffs' claim was barred by the immunity set forth in N.J.S.A. 59:4-5. The trial judge agreed and entered judgment in behalf of the township. This appeal followed.

At the outset it is essential to reiterate the legislative declaration concerning the application of the New Jersey Tort Claims Act. N.J.S.A. 59:1-2 provides in pertinent part as follows:

This policy is further enunciated in N.J.S.A. 59:2-1 which provides:

a. Except as otherwise provided by this act, a public entity is not liable for an injury, whether such injury arises out of an act or omission of the public entity ...


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