If you have been in a car accident with a stable object, you may think you cannot recover damages from any other party. But that is not an accurate assessment in allscases.If you have been injured because of a Bangor car accident which was caused by the negligent maintenance of property, you may feel overwhelmed with the thought of how you will collect damages. Having an experienced Bangor injury attorney can give you the peace of mind you need in your case.
Seals v. Morris County is a case arising from a car accident. Seals (plaintiff) was driving his pickup truck on a road in Morris County New Jersey early in the morning. There was snow on the ground, and when the plaintiff tried to step on his brakes, the car continued downhill. The car hit an electric utility pole that was placed several feet from the side of the road. Plaintiff sustained injuries for which he sought damages.
Plaintiff sued Morris County for negligent maintenance of the road he was traveling on, and Jersey Central Power and Light (Electric Co.) for its alleged negligent placement of the electric pole.
The main issues in this case were two-fold. First, the court analyzed whether an electric company could be held liable for negligently placing an electric pole along a public highway. Secondly, whether a county is entitled to claim sovereign immunity where the county was negligent.
This electric pole was placed on county property. The Electric Co. had placed the pole there and had not received any objection to the pole’s placement from the county. There had been previous car accidents that occurred involving the pole which the Electric Co. was made aware of. However, it was company policy at the Electric Co. that the only time it moved electric poles was at the request of the county where the pole is located.
Although the pole was located on county property, the county argued that because there was no Morris County police, the county had no notice that these accidents were occurring there because the municipal police did not notify them. The county further argued that it had not given consent to have that pole placed there, although it had been there for over thirty years.
The Electric Co. argued that although the county had been silent as to the placement of the pole, this silence should be considered assent; thus rendering the Electric Co. immune from the imposition of liability. This argument hinged on state statute that indicates that where a utility company has maintained a utility pole in the same location for ten years, the owner of the land where the pole is placed is presumed to have consented to this placement.
With both the Electric Co. and the county arguing that the other should be held liable under negligence, the court was set decide the matter. Through application of state statute and New Jersey case law, this court held that where a government entity directs a utility company to where utility poles should be placed the utility company is immune from liability. However, the facts of this case indicate that the County had been silent as to the placement of this offending pole thus, conferring ordinary negligence to both the county and the Electric Co.
Thus the rule established in this case is that where a utility company negligently places or maintains an electric pole causing an unreasonable and unnecessary danger to drivers traveling on that road, the utility company can be held liable.
Through this court decision it is seen that the only way a utility company can be immune from liability is where it negligent acts were a result of a direction from a governmental entity.
The issue of whether the county is immune from liability was left to the lower court to determine on remand.