Hill v. Yaskin

75 N.J. 139 (1977)

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Hill v. Yaskin

New Jersey Supreme Court
75 N.J. 139 (1977)

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Facts

Judith A. Yaskin (defendant) parked in a parking lot owned by Camden Parking Services, Inc. (Camden Parking) (defendant). Camden Parking required parking-lot patrons to leave their car keys in the ignition so the parking attendant could move the vehicle if necessary. At 5:00 p.m., the parking-lot attendant would leave for the evening and leave the keys to the remaining vehicles in the respective vehicles with the doors unlocked. When Yaskin returned to the parking lot after 5:00 p.m., her car was missing, and she reported it stolen. The next day, police officer William E. Hill (plaintiff) saw the stolen car and pursued the vehicle, resulting in a chase. The chase ended in a collision between Hill’s vehicle and Yaskin’s vehicle, and Hill was injured in the collision. The parking lot was located in a high-crime area, and the Camden Parking manager testified in a deposition that he was aware of prior thefts of vehicles from the lot. Hill sued Yaskin and Camden Parking for negligence. The trial court granted Yaskin’s and Camden Parking’s motions for summary judgment. Hill appealed. Appellate court precedent was split as to whether a person who left a car on a public street unattended with the key in the ignition was liable for an accident after the theft of the car. One appellate court case held that it was not foreseeable that the car would be stolen and operated negligently. Another case held that liability in that situation was a question for the jury. The appellate court found in Hill’s case that it would be unfair to hold a vehicle owner responsible for the actions that occurred after the theft of the vehicle and affirmed the trial court’s judgment. Hill appealed to the New Jersey Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Clifford, J.)

Concurrence/Dissent (Sullivan, J.)

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