By David Madden

PHILADELPHIA, PA (CBS) — A ruling from a federal appeals court panel in Philadelphia this week cleared the state of New Jersey and other governmental entities sued by the mother of a Salem County woman who died in Hurricane Irene 6-years-ago.

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Celena Sylvestri drowned behind the wheel of her car as the vehicle was overcome by flood waters. Her mother argued that officials were wrong to open a flood gate in the middle of that storm, even though a state of emergency was in effect.

The panel’s decision that officials acted properly did not surprise Seton Hall law school professor Brian Sheppard.

“It almost seemed to kind of go out of its way to mention her role in bringing about her own death, which struck me as a bit odd because it was really not necessary,” Sheppard told KYW Newsradio.

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If there’s one thing to be learned from this, he says, it’s for people to heed emergency warnings when they’re issued.

“It’s very difficult, indeed, to successfully sue the state when states of emergency are concerned and a violation of law has happened, even if it does result in just a terrible, terrible outcome,” Sheppard added.

He suggests an appeal to the US Supreme Court, while possible, would almost certainly not get a hearing.