SLIP AND FALL ON ICY SCHOOL PATHWAY RESULTS IN $4 MILLION JURY AWARD

A woman who is expected to suffer years of physical consequences from slipping on an icy pathway was awarded $4 million in a jury trial. While the defendant tried to have this decision overturned by the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court, a three-judge panel recently ruled that the award is valid and should be upheld. 

The case, titled Kostera v. Bacharach Institute for Rehabilitation, began on a cold day in February of 2010. Carolyn Kostera, then 59, was teaching a nursing course on the campus of Bacharach Institute for Rehabilitation. At that time, she was a part-time nursing instructor for Atlantic Cape Community College, and the college had entered a contract with Bacharach to use their facility to hold Atlantic Cape Community College classes. While Kostera was walking around on the Bacharach campus, she slipped and fell on an icy pathway, which resulted in a bad fracture of her left ankle. Kostera had to undergo extensive treatment for the break, including seven surgeries and a fusion procedure, and was unable to return to her teaching position afterward. Her doctors predict that she will be forced to undergo further treatment and therapy, as well. Kostera sued Bacharach for negligently failing to warn passersby of the dangerous condition and failing to remedy the slippery pathway or provide better lighting so that the condition was visible. At trial, the jury found that between the costs of further medical attention and the value of Kostera's lost income, she was entitled to $4 million in damages.

Bacharach appealed the decision. The school claimed that it was not obligated to pay the full $4 million award, due to its status as a nonprofit organization. Under a New Jersey law called the Charitable Immunity Act, there is a limit to the liability of charitable organizations such as churches and schools for large tort lawsuit judgments when those lawsuits are brought by someone who has benefitted from the charitable organization's purpose. For example, if a parishioner was injured on the premises of a church, that person would not be able to collect a judgment for millions of dollars from the church. However, the Charitable Immunity Act does not apply to negligence victims who did not benefit from the charitable nature of the organization. Since Kostera was on the school's campus because Bacharach had entered a contract with Kostera's employer, and Bacharach was being paid by the college for use of the classroom, Kostera wasn't a beneficiary of Bacharach's charitable purposes as a nonprofit school. The $4 million judgment was upheld.

Businesses have a duty to maintain safe premises. If you're injured by a dangerous condition on the property of a business in New Jersey, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Contact the skilled personal injury attorneys at the Morristown-based law firm of Smith & Doran for a consultation on your possible slip and fall lawsuit, at 973-292-0022.

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