The New Jersey Supreme Court, on January 18, 2012, released their opinion in the case of Polzo v. County of Essex.

M&K partner Jeffrey B. Beacham had petitioned the New Jersey Supreme Court on behalf of his client, the County of Essex, to hear the case after his summary judgment was overturned by the Appellate Division. The Appellate Division had also ruled that the County of Essex created a dangerous condition by having no routine inspection program in place to discover road surface defects.

Mr. Beacham argued before the New Jersey Supreme Court on September 26, 2011 and the New Jersey Supreme Court reversed the Appellate Division and reinstated the dismissal of the plaintiff’s complaint. The Court ruled that even if the County had notice that the depression was a dangerous condition, a reasonable jury could not find that the failure to repair it was “palpably unreasonable” under the New Jersey Tort Claims Act.

The Court ruled that the County could not be found to have “created” a dangerous condition by having no routine inspection program in place to discover road surface defects.

The plaintiff, Mathi Polzo had been riding her bicycle on the shoulder of Parsonage Hill Road in Millburn when she rode over a depression on the shoulder, lost control and fell.  She died from her injuries 26 days later.  The plaintiff argued that the County of Essex should have inspected the roadway and found the depression and repaired the depression.

The Court ruled that even if the County had notice that the depression was a dangerous condition, a reasonable jury could not find that the failure to repair it was “palpably unreasonable.” Essex County is responsible for an extensive network of roads and there were no prior complaints or reports of injuries from the depression on the shoulder of Parsonage Hill Road.