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King v. Brown

Decided: November 16, 1987.

KARL KING, AN INCOMPETENT, BY HIS GUARDIAN AD LITEM NORAH KING; CHRISTOPHER KING, KENDRA KING, AND MEREDITH KING, INFANTS UNDER THE AGE OF 18 YEARS, BY THEIR GUARDIAN AD LITEM NORAH KING; AND NORAH KING, INDIVIDUALLY, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
PHYLLIS J. BROWN, STATE OF NEW JERSEY, COUNTY OF MONMOUTH, TOWNSHIP OF OCEAN, JOHN DOE, A FICTITIOUS NAME, AND JOHN DOE II THROUGH JOHN DOE XII, DEFENDANTS



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

Gaulkin, Gruccio and D'Annunzio. The opinion of the Court was delivered by D'Annunzio, J.A.D.

D'annunzio

Plaintiffs appeal the grant of summary judgment in favor of the three public entity defendants. Plaintiffs eventually settled their claims against Brown, the individual defendant.

On August 8, 1983, Karl King was a pedestrian in Ocean Township attempting to cross Sunset Avenue from the south side to the north side. Sunset Avenue has two traffic lanes, one westbound and one eastbound. During his attempt to cross the eastbound lane, King ran into the right rear of a car being operated in an easterly direction by defendant Brown. The impact caused King to fall and strike his head. It is alleged that King sustained brain damage which has rendered him incompetent.

Judgment was entered in favor of the public entities on the ground that the condition which plaintiffs contended caused King's injury did not constitute a dangerous condition within the meaning of N.J.S.A. 59:4-2.*fn1 We agree and affirm.

Plaintiffs' contentions are well expressed in the first page of plaintiffs' brief on appeal:

Plaintiffs' liability theory against the public entities was that the scene of Karl King's accident was a traffic nightmare, one at which there existed (a) substantial volume of pedestrian traffic back and forth across Sunset Avenue combined with (b) an extraordinarily high volume of vehicular traffic proceeding in and from many different directions at once, both on the roadway proper and from adjacent parking lots, parking areas, and driveways; yielding the result that (c) pedestrians in Karl King's position confronted an unreasonably great difficulty in making effective observations for their safety.

Sharpening their focus, plaintiffs alleged that Sunset Avenue was a very busy street due to retail commercial development on both sides of the street, diagonal parking on the north side of Sunset and the use of Sunset as part of a de facto jughandle for northbound traffic on State Highway 35. According to plaintiffs, these elements created "an unreasonably busy and complicated traffic situation."

Plaintiffs emphasize the effect of the de facto jughandle created by the State. Northbound Route 35 traffic desiring to cross the southbound lanes of Route 35 to travel west on Sunset Avenue was directed to local streets in lieu of a left hand turn from Route 35. These vehicles, proceeding north on Route 35, would pass the Sunset Avenue intersection, turn right onto Fairmount Avenue, proceed for one block and turn right onto Allen Avenue, proceed for one block and turn right onto Sunset. After proceeding for one block on Sunset, the vehicles would be at its intersection with Route 35 facing west.

Although plaintiffs emphasize and rely on the effect of the jughandle on Sunset Avenue traffic, the record is silent as to the volume of Sunset Avenue traffic attributable to the jughandle effect. Moreover, the Brown vehicle was not part of the

jughandle traffic. Brown was proceeding eastbound ...


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