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$1 Million Awarded to Injured Man

Cahill v. Woodbridge Township:

Woodbridge has been ordered to pay more than $1 million to a man who four years ago ran into the back of a township dump truck parked on the side of Crows Mill Road.

An eight-member state Superior Court jury on Wednesday awarded Shawn Cahill of the township's Keasbey section $1.35 million for damages and future medical expenses. But because Judge Yolanda Ciccone assigned 25 percent of the responsibility to Cahill and 75 percent to the township, Cahill will collect just over $1 million.

Woodbridge Business Administrator Jim Davey said the township is considering an appeal. Attorney Alan Baratz of the Parsippany law firm Weiner Lesniak, who represented the township, did not respond to calls for comment yesterday.

"There's nothing that pleases me more than to have eight strangers (on the jury) set me up for the rest of my life," said Cahill 37.

According to Cahill's attorney, Steven Cahn of the Edison firm Eichen & Cahn, Cahill was returning from work around 8:30 p.m. during a snowstorm in March 1994 and did not see the township truck, which had broken down and was parked along a snow bank on Crows Mill Road.

Cahill's vehicle, traveling about 25 mph, crashed into the back of the truck.

Cahn said the orange truck was covered with black soot and its rear gate was down, blocking several reflectors. No cones or flares warned motorists about the disabled vehicle, he said.

The accident destroyed Cahill's hip, which now is held together with metal pins and a steel plate, said Cahn, adding that his client has a limp.

Cahill, who also had knee surgery, was out of work as manager of Tops Appliance City in Edison - which required him to be on his feet - for six months. He now works, sitting down, as salesman for Bell Atlantic Mobile, Cahn said.

Cahill said he once played hockey and softball.

"I was never close to being a professional ballplayer. I just went out there with the guys," he said yesterday. "But playing any sports is not feasible anymore."

Woodbridge Mayor Jim McGreevey called the accident "regrettable," but he said the road crew assigned to the truck was not at fault. He said the vehicle was left as close to the roadside snow bank as possible and was parked under a street light.

"The road crew acted responsibly and appropriately," McGreevey said.

McGreevey said no disciplinary action was taken against township workers David O'Dell and William Wenzel, who were responsible for the truck and were listed in the lawsuit, which was filed in 1995. Both still work for Woodbridge.

This article first appeared in The Home News Tribune, July, 1998.

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