In 2001, a female bicyclist suffered a massive head injury after she was riding on the shoulder of Parsonage Hill Road in Millburn and hit a deep dip in the road, causing her to fall of her bicycle. Despite wearing a helmet, she suffered severe head trauma and died 26 days later.
The victim’s husband filed a personal injury lawsuit against Essex County, who is responsible for repairing the road. Last week, the New Jersey Supreme Court dismissed the victim’s husband’s lawsuit against Essex County, stating that his case “failed to conclusively demonstrate the county knew about the 1 1/2-inch-deep, 2-foot-wide depression,” as reported by The Star Ledger.
The court also stated that the plaintiff failed to prove that the dip in the road was in a condition that would be potentially fatal to the public and did not show that the county made a “palpably unreasonable” error by not repairing the road.
The attorney for Essex County praised the decision saying that a ruling in the plaintiff’s favor would have impacted all New Jersey municipalities and created horrible consequences during our current economy.
The plaintiff’s attorney disagreed and questioned what the court’s ruling meant for bicyclists’ safety. Residents and local police testified that Parsonage Hill Road is frequently used by bicyclists but the court stated that the road is not built or maintained for bicyclists; therefore the county is not liable for the victim’s injury and death.
Bicycle safety may not always be considered during road design and repairs and this fatal accident shows the dangers of what can happen when roads are not repaired or designed to protect all travelers on the road.