After a jury concluded that two New Jersey agencies took too long to respond to a multi-car pileup, a woman who lost her leg in the car accident was awarded almost $9 million.
On Dec. 4, 2005, Janet Henebema was on her way home from her job as a dealer at the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City. While driving on the Atlantic City Expressway, she hit a patch of black ice and slid into a multi-car pileup. As she was walking from her car to the side of the road, another car skidded on the same patch of ice and hit Henebema, severing her leg.
At the time of Henebema’s injury, the multi-car accident had already been going on for over half an hour. The first drivers had crashed 37 minutes earlier, but state troopers were involved with a fatal accident and had not yet arrived on the scene. Henebema sued the South Jersey Transportation Authority and the New Jersey State Police, claiming that the authority’s dispatchers had failed to alert troopers that the vehicles involved in the car accident were still on the roadway. Had they been removed, Henebema said, her accident and injuries may have been prevented.
The jury agreed and awarded Henebema damages of $8.7 million, finding the Authority 80 percent responsible for the accident and the State Police 20 percent responsible. According to Ralph Paolone, Henebema’s attorney, the jury placed the blame correctly. “I don’t think the jury felt the road troopers did anything wrong,” he said. “They faulted the SHTA dispatchers for not broadcasting the call and not updating the troopers so they could have made a better decision.” According the Paolone, the dispatchers declined an offer of help from the Egg Harbor Township Police Department, which also may have prevented Henebema’s injuries.
A spokeswoman for the Authority said the agency will appeal the award.
Source: Asbury Park Press, “Amputee wins $8.7M in delayed response crash trial”, 14 October 2010