Pluchino v. Borough of Rutherford, 2010 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 215 (App. Div. Feb. 1, 2010)

School board was not liable for damages associated with an automobile accident where the board did not cancel football practice in the rain and allowed the 16-year-old student to drive home after practice with another 17-year-old student.

The plaintiff, Alex Pluchino, then 16 years old, was severely injured in an automobile accident after leaving football practice at Rutherford High School (RHS) in a car driven by third-party defendant Jason Bille, a fellow team member. The plaintiff filed this claim against the Rutherford Board of Education and Bergen County, alleging the board was negligent because school officials failed to cancel football practice, despite predictions that a hurricane was approaching, and permitted him to ride home with an uninsured fellow student under the then-current weather conditions. "In the case of a student of Pluchino's age and in the absence of extraordinary weather conditions, the board and its employees did not breach their duty of care" in not canceling football practice and allowing Pluchino to drive home with a 17-year-old student. The appellate panel affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. An attorney in the Roseland, N.J. Office of Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman & Goggin successfully argued this motion. The plaintiff further alleged that the county was negligent because of the inherently dangerous condition of the curve at the accident site. As the court noted, "The record reflects a difference of opinion as to whether the Actions taken by the county and its engineer . . . were the best way of configuring the warning signs" at the curve. However, the plaintiff could not meet his burden of proving that the county's approach was "palpably unreasonable."

Case Law Alert - 2nd Qtr 2010