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Jury Awards $1.35M In Auto Negligence Case

-by Matt Ackermann

New Jersey Law Journal

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Cahill v. Woodbridge: A Middlesex County jury Wednesday awarded $1.35 million to a 37-year-old Woodbridge man whose car crashed into a township-owned dump truck, causing a fractured right hip that required internal fixation surgery.

After an eight-day trial before Judge Yolanda Ciccone, the jury found Woodbridge Township, the owner of the truck, 75 per cent negligent in the accident and the car's driver, Shawn Cahill, 25 percent negligent.

The accident occurred on March 6, 1994, when Cahill was driving home from work at 8:30 p.m. on Crows Mill Road in Woodbridge. His car struck the dump truck, which had broken down on the side of the road. Cahill's attorney, Steven Cahn, a partner with Edison's Eichen & Cahn, argued that the truck was improperly parked three-and-a-half feet from the curb on a night when the road was slick.

To prove Cahill's comparative negligence, the township presented as evidence a night-time re-enactment video shot with special photography to show that the orange-colored dump truck was easily visible from 250 feet away.

Cahn's accident-reconstruction expert testified that the truck was damaged and dirty, having been used on the day of the accident to haul tar to fill potholes. Thus, Cahill, who was unable to remember the accident, probably did not see the truck until he was 50 feet away and, because of the braking time and the slick conditions, did not have enough time to stop, the plaintiff's expert said.

Woodbridge's attorney, Alan Baratz, a partner with Parsippany's Weiner Lesniak, did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

Cahill's award, $1.2 million for pain and suffering and $150,000 for future medical costs, was accordingly reduced to $1.012 million. The judge's chambers confirmed the figures.

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