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New Jersey’s failure to live up to its obligation to retest drivers makes it liable when elderly motorists cause accidents, according to a suit filed July 23 by lawyers for a man disabled in an accident. The lawyers for Vincent Corso, 39, who was permanently disabled in an accident in 2001, say the Division of Motor Vehicles is not carrying out N.J.S.A. 39:3-10(c), which requires the DMV to check motorists’ vision every 10 years as a condition for license renewal. Corso, a self-employed musician from Edison, N.J., was hit by a car as he was crossing a street. Corso suffered severe head injuries, was in a coma for several months, remains at the John F. Kennedy Center for Head Injuries, and is still trying to learn to walk. The driver of the car that hit Corso, Phillip Piracci, 80, of Cresskill, apparently did not know he struck someone but surrendered his license after police tracked him to his house the next day. Piracci died six months ago of natural causes. The suit, Corso v. New Jersey, filed by Robert Linder of Englewood, N.J., and Stuart Lieberman, of Princeton, N.J.’s Lieberman & Blecher, seeks damages from Piracci’s estate and the state. The Middlesex County suit came eight days after Russell Weller, 86, plowed through a farmers’ market in Santa Monica, Calif., on July 16, killing 10 people and injuring up to 45 others. Weller told police that he may have hit the gas pedal instead of the brake. Although Weller held a valid license, police said they were going to look into whether or not he was qualified to drive. The California incident did not spur the Corso suit, “but it’s the same issue,” says Linder. The Santa Monica incident “certainly highlights the issue. The state needs to be testing elderly drivers.” The fact that the state does not test the physical and mental abilities of older drivers is “grossly negligent,” he says. “We have to prove that the state is creating an ultra-hazardous condition on the roadways” by allowing people in Piracci’s condition to continue to drive without at least having their vision tested, says Linder. “We know damn well there is a percentage of people out there who should not be driving.” “In the instant case, Phillip Piracci was issued a driver’s license … without any safeguard, any test, any mechanism in place to determine whether Phillip Piracci had the physical, mental or emotional wherewithal to safely operate a motor vehicle on New Jersey roadways,” the suit says. “Phillip Piracci was not in sufficient physical, mental or emotional health at the time he last received a driver’s license … such that by issuing [Piracci] a driver’s license, the state of New Jersey created a palpably unreasonable dangerous condition, and it was highly foreseeable that a third party would be injured as a result of this condition.” Officials from the attorney general’s office, which will defend the Division of Motor Vehicles in the lawsuit, did not return telephone calls seeking comment last week. Piracci was insured by Boston-based OneBeacon Insurance of Boston. Linder says he does not know whether Piracci’s estate has been served with a copy of the suit, and officials from the insurance company did not return telephone calls last week seeking comment.

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