Join Our Telegram Channel

JUST IN: LAKEWOOD TOWNSHIP FINALLY DISMISSED FROM LAWSUIT


Lakewood Township is finally dismissed from two lawsuits that claims that a guardrail that was once removed from Cedar Bridge Avenue is heavily to blame for a traffic crash in the summer of 2021 which resulted in a fatality and two serious injuries!


The Township was previously very slow to fight to get dismissed from the matter. Once the Township's attorneys did get moving on fighting the case, the family of the juvenile who succumbed to death in the crash fought back to keep the Township in litigation. Just before a hearing set for the matter, the Plaintiff's gave in and settled the matter, dismissing the Township from two lawsuits.




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


According to the Lakewood Township Police Department report, a multi-agency investigation revealed that Dimitriy N. Kurik, a juvenile, was driving with 2 passengers - one being Volodimir Vlasyuk, 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. Dimitriy Kurik 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.


Volodimir Vlasyuk, the juvenile passenger who was seated in the rear of the vehicle, was ejected from the vehicle and was pronounced deceased at the scene.


Just one month prior to the crash, the juvenile driver received citations for driving an unregistered vehicle and displaying fictitious plates, and just 2 days prior to the crash, the he was issued a citation for driving under the influence of liquor or drugs.


As first reported here on FAA News, back in May 2022, the family of the deceased juvenile, represented by Old Bridge Attorney Zlata Rudikh of Rudikh and Associates, filed a lawsuit charging 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.


The Chambers Crescent apartments were redeveloped by contractors working for the Lakewood Housing Authority, and at some point 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, records show that county officials have confirmed, the lawsuit charges.


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 parents / administrators of the Estate of Volodimir Vlasyuk, the deceased minor.


The lawsuit named 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."


Maser Consulting, the engineer for the housing project, immediately settled out of court and was dismissed without prejudice.


The Lakewood Housing Authority and County of Ocean immediately filed motions to get dismissed from the case on the basis that the Plaintiff's Tort Claims Act notices were faulty. These motions were granted.


Oddly, however, the Township dragged their feet for many months, simply refusing to fight to get out of the litigation.


Finally, as previously reported here on FAA News, back in May 2023, Attorney Peter Van Dyke Esq. representing the Township filed a Motion for Summary Judgement, seeking to get dismissed from the matter with prejudice.


The motion argued simply that "in order to establish liability on the part of a public entity the Plaintiff must prove that the public entity owned or controlled the property on which the incident occurred. While the property of the crash does exist within the Township's geographic area, Cedar Bridge Avenue is not owned or under the jurisdiction of the Township. Additionally, Chambers Crescent Apartments is also not owned or under the jurisdiction of the Township. Therefore, unless the Plaintiff can establish that the property on which the Plaintiff was injured was public property, as the New Jersey Tort Claims Act (TCA) defines that term, the Court should grant summary judgement in favor of the Township."


As previously reported here on FAA News, Attorney Jessica J. Francis Esq. representing the Plaintiff filed Opposition to the Township's Motion for Summary Judgement, completely ignoring the Township's assertion that neither Chambers Crescent Apartments, where the crash occurred, not Cedar Bridge Avenue, the adjacent roadway, are owned or under the jurisdiction of the Township.


Ms. Francis wrote:



The instant case involves a fatal motor vehicle accident which was likely significantly exacerbated because there were no guardrails in place to stop the car from careening into the Chambers Crescent apartment building. The “guardrails question” is just one of many material issues in dispute which should prevent the Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment from being granted at this juncture. Who exactly “owns or controls” the specific property and how that property fits into this case will only crystalize through discovery, and thus Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment must be denied. Lakewood Township owns all property involved in the instant case, which is why the Defendant’s Brief focuses mostly on asserting they do not assert “possessory control” of these properties.

 

However, further discovery is necessary to even make these preliminary arguments. It should be noted that it was Lakewood Township Police Department that responded to the crash
site, issued all associated traffic tickets, and prepared the full police report. The Plaintiffs should be allowed the opportunity to conduct a full course of discovery as to Defendant, Lakewood
Township, to determine if liability will apply under the TCA, and thus, their Motion for
Summary Judgment must be summarily denied.



When deciding summary judgment motions, court rules provide that a court should grant summary judgment only when the record indicates that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact challenged and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment or order as a matter of law.



The Court in Brill v. Guardian Life Ins. Of Am reasoned that the trial court's function is not to engage in fact finding and the weight of the evidence in determining the truth of the matter, but rather whether there is a genuine issue for trial.



It is well settled that whether a dangerous condition existed at the time of injury is a
question for a jury. Vincitore v. New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, (finding that whether a railroad crossing was reasonable was a question for a jury).


Although there are numerous material facts in dispute, the issue of who owned or controlled the property under the TCA should be enough to deny Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment as discovery is needed to clarify this issue.

 

For the reasons set forth above, it is respectfully requested that the Court DENY the Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment and allow this case to proceed accordingly. There are numerous material issues in dispute regarding whether the Defendant, Lakewood Township, is liable for the dangerous condition(s) in the vicinity where the accident occurred.


The Township responded with a Reply Brief that included tax records indicating that Chambers Crescent is not owned or under the Township's jurisdiction.


Judge Wellerson was scheduled to hold oral arguments on the motion on Friday. However, that turned out to be not necessary as just prior to oral arguments, the Plaintiff's agreed on their own to dismiss the Township from the litigation.


As previously reported here on FAA News, a separate lawsuit was subsequently filed by two additional plaintiffs who were standing inside their home and were injured when the car came crashing inside their home.


As part of their agreement with the Plaintiffs, the Township is now dismissed from this second lawsuit as well.


To join a FAA News WhatsApp Group, click here.


To join the FAA News WhatsApp Status, click here.


No comments: