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All lawsuits which are filed against Lakewood Township run up legal fees for which our property taxpayers are forced to pay. It would therefore seem prudent that when a lawsuit is filed against the Township, the Township officials would direct its attorneys to fight as hard as they can to get dismissed from the lawsuits so as to minimize the financial impact on our property taxpayers.

It seems however, that Lakewood Township only fights strongly against lawsuits when the lawsuits are causing problems for developers, but for non-developer related lawsuits, they sit back and let the legal fees - all funded by our taxpayers - pile up.

A lawsuit filed back in May in Ocean County Superior Court charges that a guardrail that was once removed from Cedar Bridge Avenue in Lakewood is heavily to blame for a traffic crash fatality last summer.

The suit involves a fatal traffic crash that took place on the evening of July 5, 2021, on Cedarbridge Avenue at Clover Street.

According to Lakewood Township Police Department report, a multi-agency investigation revealed that a juvenile driving with 2 passengers - one being a juvenile - eastbound on Cedarbridge Avenue approached the cross street of Clover Street at a high rate of speed. An unidentified vehicle was in the left-hand turn lane attempting to make a left-hand turn onto Clover Street. The juvenile operator attempted to navigate around that vehicle and lost control of the vehicle. The vehicle left the roadway and struck the face of a building. The vehicle overturned and came to an uncontrolled rest on its hood. The juvenile passenger, who was seated in the rear of the vehicle, was ejected from the vehicle and was pronounced deceased at the scene.

A lawsuit now filed by the deceased juvenile's family charges that there used to be a guardrail on the side of this road, and its removal is heavily to blame for this fatality.

Guardrails are protective devices for redirecting errant vehicles from colliding with an obstruction, and they are designed to reduce the severity of crashes.

Prior to redevelopment of the adjacent Chambers Crescent apartments, there was a guardrail along this section of Cedar Bridge Avenue, road design maps on file with Ocean County show.

The Chambers Crescent apartments were redeveloped by contractors working for the Lakewood Housing Authority, and at some during the construction process, the contractors removed the guardrail. The Ocean County Engineering Department typically inspects construction sites along county-owned roads such as Cedar Bridge Avenue to ensure that all existing road infrastructure is replaced. Somehow, in this particular case, the County was unaware that the guardrail was removed, and failed to oversee its replacement, the lawsuit charges, records show that county officials have confirmed.

Between 2019 and August 20, 2021, there were over 100 reportable motor vehicle crashes on this section of Cedar Bridge Avenue, police records show.

The lawsuit was filed by Alex Vlasyuk and Tetyana Vlasyuk, as administrators of the Estate and by way of Ad Prosequendom for the Estate of Volodimir Vlasyuk, the deceased minor.

The lawsuit names as defendants to the suit Dimitriy Kurik, the operator of the vehicle, as well as his parents Natalia Kurik and Vyacheslav Polushkin, and the owner of the vehicle Eshmatie Persaud, Lakewood Township, Ocean County Engineering Department, as well as the Lakewood Housing Authority, and their co-developers and construction contractors, Chambers Crescent Apartments, R. Stone and Company, and Community Investment Strategies, Inc. as well as Maser Consulting, the engineer for the housing project.

To ensure that roadside safety features are capable of performing their intended functions, periodic review, inspection, and maintenance of traffic barriers are necessary and should be a part of the normal maintenance function, and inspection should also be triggered by a crash report indicating a high severity or incidence of run-off-road crashes, the lawsuit contends.

The suit seeks "compensatory damages for conscious pain and suffering, wrongful death, survivorship damages, and past and future economic damages together with interest, attorney's fees, and costs of suit".

Although the suit was originally filed back in March, it was not formally served upon the various defendants until July.

On August 9th, R. Stone and Company, who is being represented by Attorney Ada Gallicchio of the Scranton, Pennsylvania based-Law Office of Alphonso H. Ibrahim, filed an Answer denying all allegations.

At the same time, R. Stone and Company served the Plaintiff with a demand - within 5 days - for a written statement of damages claimed. They also served the Plaintiff with a demand to answer certain Interrogatories and to produce certain documents related to the case including the minor decedent's medical history, cell phone records of messages related to the crash, and any medical expert reports obtained.

On September 23rd, after not yet receiving any response from the Plaintiff, Attorney Gallicchio wrote to their attorney seeking follow up and putting them on notice that their "continued non-compliance will result in an appropriate motion being made to the Court without further attempt to resolve this matter."

After still not receiving any response, Attorney Gallicchio has now filed a Motion seeking to get R. Stone dismissed from the lawsuit due to the Plaintiff's failure to respond to discovery requests.

The motion is returnable (i.e. the Plaintiff needs to respond by) November 4th. Oral Argument is not being requested unless opposition is filed. Opposition has not yet been filed but will likely be filed later this month.

The lawsuit has already been dismissed without prejudice against the parents of the driver, Natalia Kurik and Vyacheslav Polushkin, and the owner of the vehicle Eshmatie Persaud, for the Plaintiff's failure to serve them.

Maser Consulting immediately settled their portion of the matter out of court. Interestingly, it appears that they have now signed on to assist the Plaintiff in fighting the case against the other parties.

As first reported here on FAA News, Ocean County immediately filed a Motion seeking to get them dismissed from the case on the basis that the Plaintiff did not properly serve them with a Notice of Tort Claim prior to the filing of the lawsuit.

As first reported here on FAA News, the Lakewood Housing Authority has also filed a Motion to get dismissed from the case. Their arguments are pretty straightforward and based on New Jersey case law.

Both of these motions are scheduled to be heard next Friday, October 21st.

Lakewood Township has filed an Answer denying the allegations, however, they have not made any further moves to get dismissed from the lawsuit. They have not argued the Lakewood Housing Authority's straightforward arguments, and they have not moved forward by demanding that the Plaintiff's attorney produce discovery, as R. Stone has done.

Why ever in the world not??

Why is the Township not working feverishly to get immediately dismissed from the lawsuit?

Is the answer perhaps, that the Township only fights to gets cases dismissed when Lakewood developers stand to gain from the dismissals (as in Lake Terrace and Bnos Brocha)??

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