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NJ Turnpike Association faces various liabilities, P.2

July 29, 2011

In our previous post, we began discussing some of the settlements paid out by the New Jersey Turnpike Association in the last year and a half. Since that time, the Association has settled seven separate cases, costing the agency nearly $1 million. Most of the settlements are related to accidents of some type.

According to sources, settling with plaintiffs is often more cost-effective than taking a case to trial. Settlements, of course, don’t necessarily mean that the agency admits liability, but rather that the costs of litigation and the costs of losing are too large a risk to take. In general, government agencies like the NJTA are averse to going to court, since there is often sympathy toward those who have been harmed.

When considering whether to settle, the Turnpike Authority board is often involved, since the board votes on expenditures in excess of $35,000. All of the seven settlements in the last year and a half required a vote by the board. Whether or not the agency chooses to settle is largely based on whether the case is likely to be dismissed at court.

According to sources, settling with plaintiffs is often more cost-effective than taking a case to trial. Settlements, of course, don’t necessarily mean that the agency admits liability, but rather that the costs of litigation and the costs of losing are too large a risk to take. In general, government agencies like the NJTA are averse to going to court, since there is often sympathy toward those who have been harmed.

In the case of the young model that died in 2006, the NJTA board felt there were enough factors against the agency that made a $125,000 settlement seem a very reasonable amount to pay.

According to Thomas Feeney, a spokesman for the Turnpike Authority, there are currently 33 open cases against the agency which were filed between last January and this July. Personal injury and wrongful death cases accounted for 23 of them. Four were employment related, another four were civil rights cases involving police, one was related to real estate and another was environmental in nature.

Source: nj.com, “N.J. Turnpike Authority paid nearly $1M to settle 7 lawsuits, including one involving model that was killed,” Associated Press, 26 July 2011.

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