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In a 4-3 decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in favor of an injured bus passenger, holding that NJ Transit was subject to the heightened legal duties and safety standards imposed upon common carriers. Legal experts and injury attorneys predict the Supreme Court’s ruling will make it harder for NJ Transit to defend itself against injury lawsuits. Continue reading to find out why this ruling may make it easier to file injury suits against NJ Transit moving forward.
Anasia Maison was injured while riding on a NJ Transit bus when she was struck in the head by a bottle that had been thrown by a group of teenagers who were riding the bus with Maison, after the group verbally harassed her and brandished a knife. Although Maison called out for help, the bus driver simply kept driving. Maison ultimately required 22 stitches and was left with chronic headaches and a permanent scar that made her self-conscious about her appearance.
Maison filed a suit against NJ Transit, arguing that the agency was subject to the duty of care imposed upon common carriers in the private sector, which includes the duty to protect passengers from injury inflicted by fellow passengers. NJ Transit opposed the suit, arguing that it was an arm of the state government entitled to immunity under New Jersey’s Tort Claims Act.
The trial court agreed with Maison that NJ Transit was a common carrier and a jury returned a $1.8 million verdict in Maison’s favor. The Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s judgment on the common carrier issue but held that liability for Maison’s damages had to be apportioned between NJ Transit and the teen who threw the bottle that injured Maison.
NJ Transit appealed to the New Jersey Supreme Court, which affirmed the lower courts’ ruling that the transit agency was subject to the heightened common carrier standard. The Supreme Court further agreed with the Appellate Division’s ruling that fault had to be allocated between NJ Transit and the unidentified bottle thrower. Justice Patterson wrote a dissenting opinion arguing that the jury charge suggested by the majority opinion would push juries to allocate most or all the fault in the case to NJ Transit.
Attorney K. Raja Bhattacharya of Bendit Weinstock in West Orange, NJ, who represented Maison, approved of the jury charge suggested by the Supreme Court’s opinion and noted that NJ Transit had for decades been fighting against being subject to the common carrier standard.
For years prior to the New Jersey Supreme Court’s opinion, lower courts in the state had split over the issue of whether NJ Transit was subject to the common carrier standard normally applied to private transportation companies or whether the transit agency was entitled to TCA immunity as an arm of the state.
Attorney Michael Epstein, of The Epstein Law Firm, P.A. in Rochelle Park, NJ, who handles personal injury suits against NJ Transit, agreed that the Supreme Court’s ruling would make it easier for injury victims to recover from NJ Transit. Epstein noted that, unlike the “reasonably prudent person standard” applicable in normal negligence cases, the common carrier standard requires “exercise [of] the utmost caution to protect...passengers, as would a very careful and prudent person under similar circumstances”.
Did you or a loved one sustain serious injuries due to NJ Transit in New Jersey? Don’t let the medical bills pile up while you wait for the negligent party or their insurance company to do the right thing. Right now, you need an aggressive personal injury attorney on your side, fighting to get you the compensation you need, want, and deserve. The skilled attorneys at The Epstein Law Firm, P.A. represent clients injured because of mass transit accidents in Hackensack, Englewood, Fair Law, Fort Lee, Paramus, and throughout New Jersey. Call 201-231-7847 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation about your case. We have an office conveniently located at 340 West Passaic Street, Rochelle Park, NJ 07662.
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