Contract Releases High Bridge from Liability in Fall Lawsuit

The Borough of High Bridge recently was released from liability in a pending lawsuit over a fall on the grounds of the Solitude House Museum thanks, at least in part, to terms of a leasing contract between the Borough and the Union Forge Heritage Association (UFHA). The Association, however, may still be liable for injuries suffered in that fall. (1) If, after reading the following, you need assistance seeking damages for injuries resulting from an accidental fall, particularly in Hunterdon County, contact the personal injury attorneys at Ragland Law Firm located in Lebanon, NJ.

In September 2009, Steven and Pamela Jones were visiting the Solitude House Museum when Steven slipped on a step hidden by fallen leaves. The couple was on their way to the Annex, a separate building on the property, when the accident occurred. In the fall, Mr. Jones fractured both wrists and suffered cuts to his face. (1)

The couple, who claims Mr. Jones continues to have limited movement and pain in his wrists, filed a lawsuit in January 2010, against the Borough of High Bridge as owner of the property, UFHA and several individuals. (1)

Normally suits of this type are filed against the property owner. To determine fault, two major factors are considered: A). Did the owner take reasonable steps to prevent the accident; and B). Was the injured person exceptionally careless? (2)

When considering whether reasonable preventive measures were taken, the Court must look at whether the owner created the hazard or was neglectful in repairing it. To find this, the hazardous condition must have existed long enough for the property owner to discover and correct it. (2)

In this particular case, while High Bridge owns the property upon which both the Museum and the Annex sits, the terms of the lease agreement between the Borough and the UFHA state that the Museum is responsible for maintaining the property and the Annex is to be closed to the public. According to the lawsuit, however, on the day of the accident there was a sign inviting guests to the Annex. (1)

Both High Bridge and the UFHA filed motions for summary judgments. The motion was approved for High Bridge but not for UFHA. The judge hearing the motions noted that the above-mentioned contract protects the Borough from lawsuits, but the judge ruled he could not tell whether or not UFHA was responsible for the hazardous condition. As a result of this ruling the trial date, which had been set for February 27, will proceed unless the parties involved reach a settlement agreement beforehand. (1)

If you think you have grounds for a lawsuit resulting from an accidental fall, be aware that there is a statute of limitations for filing. The statute of limitations usually requires a lawsuit be filed one to two years from the date of the accident, but this varies from state to state. (3) If you or someone you know needs assistance with an accidental fall lawsuit, contact the attorneys at Ragland Law Firm located on Route 22 in Lebanon, NJ.




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