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New Jersey Verdicts

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Cop struck rear of one of two vehicles blocking intersection

Type:

Verdict-Defendant

State:

New Jersey

Venue:

Monmouth County

Court:

Monmouth County Superior Court

Injury Type(s):

neck-bulging disc; cervical shoulder-shoulder impingement

Case Type:

Government - PoliceMotor Vehicle - IntersectionGovernment - Emergency ResponseMotor Vehicle - Verbal Threshold

Case Name:

Suresh Madhavan v. William Shipman, Richard L. Shipman, New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Co. and Wall Township, No. MON-L-2535-10

Date:

June 6, 2013

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Suresh Madhavan (Male, 36 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Scott W. Geldhauser; Geldhauser, Shiffman & Rizzo; Brick, NJ, for Suresh Madhavan

Defendant(s):

Wall Township, 

Richard Shipman, 

William Shipman, 

New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Co.

Defense Attorney(s):

Michael J. Lynch; Carton Law Firm; Manasquan, NJ, for New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Co. ■ None Reported; for Wall Township, Richard Shipman, William Shipman

Facts:

On Aug. 14, 2008, plaintiff Suresh Madhavan, 34, an on-duty Wall Township police officer, was dispatched to respond to a call from a local woman (who reportedly was the wife of a New Jersey state trooper) relating that her home had been burglarized. As Madhavan traveled toward the residence via New Bedford Road -- at a high rate of speed, he claimed, and with his siren and flashers activated -- his progress allegedly was blocked at the intersection with 18th Avenue by a car being driven by William Shipman, who was at a complete stop at the intersection (which is controlled by a three-color traffic-control signal.) A sport utility vehicle had pulled over to the side of the roadway, immediately to the right of the Shipman vehicle. As Madhavan approached the intersection, crashed into the back of the Shipman vehicle. He claimed the accident resulted in shoulder impingement and cervical-disc bulging. Madhavan sued Shipman (as well as the member of Shipman's family who apparently owned the vehicle Shipman was driving at the time.) The identity of the driver of the SUV was never established; Madhavan's complaint included a phantom-car claim against the driver of the SUV, and this caused Madhavan's own auto liability insurance carrier to be named as a defendant, pursuant to a claim for uninsured-motorist benefits. Madhavan testified that the SUV had improperly pulled alongside of the Shipman vehicle, and thus blocked his ability to pass the Shipman vehicle on the right side. He testified that because that vehicle was an SUV he was concerned that there might be children in the back seats of the SUV; he therefore chose to crash into the Shipman vehicle. The entire accident and its immediate aftermath were captured by the dashboard camera of another Wall Township police car responding to the same burglary call. That police car was approaching the intersection from the left side. The footage, it was argued, seemed to show that the driver of the SUV was a woman, who, post-accident, got out her vehicle and, after ascertaining that her car had not been struck, proceeded to drive away. Wall Township was also joined as a defendant because, under the terms of Madhavan's policy, contribution for the UIM claim in the amount of 15 percent would be sought from Madhavan's employer. The claims against Shipman and the registered owner of his vehicle were dismissed from the case via summary judgment very early in the case. As between NJM and Wall Township, it was agreed that NJM's counsel would try the case and represent the interests of both of those defendants.

Injury:

Madhavan complained of pain in one of his shoulders after the accident, and eventually was diagnosed with a shoulder impingement, as well as several cervical-disc bulges. He was out of work for four months post-accident, and made a collateral workers' compensation claim relative to his employment. The defense argued that Madhavan had made a full and complete recovery by the time of a pre-trial examination by a defense medical expert, and that Madhavan had suffered no permanent injury as a result of the accident.

Result:

The jury found that there had been no negligence on the part of the phantom SUV, resulting in a defense verdict.

Trial Information:

Judge:

Joseph P. Quinn

Offer:

None

Trial Length:

3  days

Trial Deliberations:

1.5  hours

Jury Vote:

6-0

Editor's Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by defense counsel for NJM. Plaintiff's counsel did not respond to the reporter's phone calls. VerdictSearch was not able to solicit feedback from listed counsels of record for the Shipmans and for the township