Judge: Lifeguard can’t be sued over collision that broke woman’s nose

Lifeguard rescue torpedoes. (Public domain image)

Lifeguard rescue torpedoes. (Public domain image)

A New Jersey judge has ruled that a lifeguard who collided with a woman as he ran to cover a vacated lifeguard stand is protected by the state’s Good Samaritan Act.

The woman had sued North Wildwood, its beach patrol and lifeguard Zachary Palombo over the September 2015 collision.

Palombo heard a call about a distressed swimmer and ran to cover the vacated stand on a busy Labor Day weekend. He soon collided with a woman walking near the water.

A 4-pound plastic rescue torpedo Palombo was carrying struck her in the face, breaking her nose. The woman had cited Palombo’s “out of control” conduct, noting he wasn’t running to a rescue or to assist an injured person.

Superior Court Judge J. Christopher Gibson ruled Palombo was protected by the law that grants immunity to emergency responders unless their actions are determined to be negligent.

The judge warned that if the case had continued it could result in a lifeguard being too cautious and not responding quickly enough to an emergency, NJ.com reported.

“North Wildwood is satisfied with the court’s decision, as this will allow lifeguards to act in emergency situations, a decision otherwise may have had lifeguards facing civil liability,” Mayor Patrick Rosenello said in a news release.

The city advises all beach patrons to be aware of their surroundings and possible emergencies in their vicinity.

In an unrelated matter, a Superior Court judge in December 2018 dismissed a lawsuit filed by the family of a man who died when the sand under his feet collapsed as he walked along the shoreline, plunging him into the swirling waters of the Hereford Inlet in North Wildwood.

The judge cited the New Jersey Tort Claims Act, granting immunity to governments from injuries occurring on unimproved public property, or land that is in its natural condition.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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