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Turnpike pays out $1M settlement in New Jersey personal injury suits

The New Jersey Turnpike Authority recently settled several lawsuits and paid out approximately $1 million to plaintiffs. These lawsuits demonstrate the variety of ways that a governmental agency can be liable for a personal injury lawsuit. A personal injury lawsuit is a legal action brought when someone is injured because of the negligence of another person or entity. Private individuals, businesses, and governmental agencies can be held liable for negligent actions or inactions that injure others.

One of the largest settlements included $150,000 paid to a paralyzed man who said that his rights under the Americans and Disabilities Act were violated by Garden State Parkway rest areas that were not handicap accessible. Another $60,000 was paid to a man who fell at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel and suffers chronic pain in his back, hips, and legs.

The Turnpike Authority also paid $125,000 to the estate of Heather Bratton, a supermodel who was at the height of her career. The 19-year-old model was featured on the cover of Italian Vogue shortly before she died. The model was killed when her cab became disabled on the highway and another car slammed into it at speeds up to 50mph.

According to the Turnpike Authority’s records the supermodel “was trapped in the taxi and burned alive.”

The Turnpike incurred liability because the police officers noted that the highway lights in the area were broken at the time of the early morning accident and that this was a contributing factor to the crash. The Turnpike decided to settle the lawsuit because it did not want to incur the legal fees associated with a lengthy court battle.

“We admitted nothing in court,” a Turnpike spokesman said. “When lights are out, we try to fix them. They’re all 60 years old. The New Jersey Turnpike is one of the safest highways in the nation, but we understand that Ms. Bratton’s family and friends take no comfort in that. That’s why we work every day toward eliminating all fatal crashes. One death on our roads will always be one death too many.”

Source: Associated Press, “N.J. Turnpike Authority paid nearly $1M to settle 7 lawsuits, including one involving model that was killed,” 7/26/11

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