Most of our car accident cases involve at least one driver who is clearly at fault. But what about the case where a person is injured after crashing into an electric or telephone pole?
In the recent New Jersey Supreme Court case of Seals v. County of Morris, the court held that in certain circumstances a utility company could be liable for constructing a utility pole in a dangerous spot. The court pointed out that normally a utility company would conduct a site study, submit detailed plans to the city identifying the location and time of placement, and the city would then pass an ordinance approving of the new utility pole. In such a case, the utility company would be immune from suit if a person were to crash into the pole. However, in the Seals case the utility company essentially constructed the poles wherever it was convenient for them, disregarding safety and ignoring their obligation to get city approval. The city, in turn, never evaluated the location for safety considerations. And the particular pole in question was in fact placed in a dangerous spot – there were several prior accidents at the location and the pole was replaced three times before Mr. Seals was injured. The court held that the utility company and the county could be liable and were not immune under the normal immunity provisions in the state statutes.
As New Jersey personal injury lawyers, we sometimes see cases where the driver in a one-car collision is not at fault because a utility pole was negligently placed in a dangerous location. If you or someone you know was involved in such a car accident, you may want to contact us so that we can investigate whether the utility company may be liable.