College, Alpha Psi Chi face possible lawsuit

Three months after a fatal collision involving 2010 alumnus Joseph Martin and a delivery contractor for The Trentonian, the College and a campus fraternity may face a multiparty lawsuit, according to the tort claim notice.

Florian Smith’s widow filed the notice of her intent to sue on Feb. 28, according to township attorney Maeve Cannon, against the College and the College’s Alpha Psi Chi chapter, as well as Hausdoerffer Hall, the Ewing Police Department, Ewing Police Officer Michael Pellegrino and the State of New Jersey.

According to the notice, Linda Smith — on behalf of herself and her 9-year-old daughter — is seeking $6 million in the proposed wrongful death lawsuit. Smith’s attorney, Norman Hobbie, could not be reached for comment.

The collision occurred on Dec. 5, when Martin’s 2001 green Audi crossed over the double yellow lines on Lower Ferry Road and hit Smith’s Ford Taurus at approximately 1:30 a.m., according to police reports. Both were found dead at the scene by Ewing Police.

The notice alleges that Martin, 23, had been drinking alcohol on campus prior to the crash, including an apartment in Hausdoerffer Hall, and departed “visibly intoxicated.” The notice charges the College, Hausdoerffer Hall and Alpha Psi Chi with “palpably unreasonable conduct,” derived from “failure to detain students who were under the influence” and its “failure to supervise, operate, maintain and control the premise.” According to The Times of Trenton, toxicology tests reported Martin’s blood alcohol level as .224. Stacy Schuster, executive director of College Relations, said the College “is precluded from commenting on pending litigation.”

Patrolman Michael Pellegrino is accused of violating state police pursuit policy by initiating a high-speed chase of Martin’s vehicle, subsequently causing Martin to crash, according to the notice. According to Cannon, Pellegrino didn’t violate pursuit procedures.

“There was no wrongdoing on the part of the township or the police officers,” she said.

The next stage of the proposed lawsuit is a 180-day waiting period, allowing named public entities to review the charges.

Katie Brenzel can be reached at brenzel2@tcnj.edu.