The families of two women who drowned in 2004 when their car went off a street in Newark, New Jersey, and plunged into the Passaic River will share a $5.8 million settlement. The estates of the two women will receive three payments, the last in January 2010. The city council has approved the settlement. The settlement came about through mediation. Three passengers in the Jeep Cherokee plunged off a 15-foot embankment and into the river on October 24, 2004. There were no guardrails or barriers to prevent cars from going into the river along that stretch of road. The families of two of the passengers sued the city.
In a deposition, an employee in the city’s Division of Traffic and Engineering admitted the city knew the roadway was “challenging,” had a speeding issue and that motorists might not see the one sign warning of an upcoming curve. City officials also knew of multiple accidents at the location where cars did not go into the river because they struck a tree or some other object.
There was evidence that the city didn’t take any remedial action to avoid future problems. Officials failed to install guardrails at the deadly stretch of road despite a memo from the former police director requesting safety measures. Five months later, another woman lost control of her vehicle, then struck and killed a person before toppling into the river at almost the same spot. The woman also died and a lawsuit by her estate was filed and is still pending.
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