Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of New Jersey
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The case revolves around the University Hospital's decision to award a contract for the design, construction, and operation of an on-site pharmacy to a bidder other than Sumukha LLC. Sumukha challenged the decision, but the hospital's hearing officer denied the protest. Sumukha then appealed to the Appellate Division. While the appeal was pending, Sumukha filed a second protest challenging the decision to change the pharmacy's planned location. When the hospital failed to respond, Sumukha filed a second appeal in the Appellate Division.The Appellate Division dismissed the appeal from Sumukha’s first protest, concluding that University Hospital’s determination was not directly appealable to the Appellate Division. It later dismissed Sumukha’s second appeal. Both dismissals were without prejudice to Sumukha’s right to file an action in the Law Division. The Court granted certification and consolidated the appeals.The Supreme Court of New Jersey found no evidence in University Hospital’s enabling statute that the Legislature intended the Hospital to be a “state administrative agency” under Rule 2:2-3(a)(2). The court held that University Hospital’s decisions and actions may not be directly appealed to the Appellate Division. The court affirmed the dismissal of the appeals, without prejudice to Sumukha’s right to file actions in the Law Division. View "In re Protest of Contract for Retail Pharmacy Design, Construction, Start-Up and Operation, Request for Proposal No. UH-P20-006" on Justia Law

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The case involves plaintiffs Christopher Maia and Sean Howarth, who were employed as laborers for defendant IEW Construction Group. The company required them to perform “pre-shift” and “post-shift” work, for which they were not paid. Both Maia and Howarth were laid off in November 2021. In April 2022, they filed a class action complaint alleging that IEW violated the Wage Payment Law (WPL) and the Wage and Hour Law (WHL).The trial judge held that Chapter 212, which amended the WPL and WHL, does not apply retroactively and thus dismissed plaintiffs’ claims for conduct that arose prior to Chapter 212’s effective date of August 6, 2019. The Appellate Division reversed this decision.The Supreme Court of New Jersey granted leave to appeal. The court held that Chapter 212 is to be applied prospectively to conduct that occurred on or after August 6, 2019, not retroactively to conduct that occurred before that date. The trial judge properly dismissed the portions of the complaint relying on Chapter 212 but arising from conduct prior to its effective date. The court reversed the Appellate Division’s judgment, reinstated the trial judge’s order partially dismissing plaintiffs’ complaint, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Maia v. IEW Construction Group" on Justia Law

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The case involves Christine Savage, a police officer who filed a lawsuit against the Neptune Township Police Department and others for sexual harassment, sex discrimination, and retaliation. The parties entered into a settlement agreement in 2014, which included a non-disparagement clause. Savage filed a second lawsuit in 2016, alleging continued and intensified discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. The parties entered into another settlement agreement in 2020, which also included a non-disparagement clause. After a television interview with Savage aired in 2020, the defendants claimed that Savage violated the non-disparagement provision of the settlement agreement.The trial court granted the defendants' motion to enforce the second settlement agreement, finding that the Law Against Discrimination (LAD) barred only non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements, and that Savage violated a non-disparagement clause. The Appellate Division affirmed in part and reversed in part, finding the non-disparagement clause enforceable but holding that Savage had not violated it.The Supreme Court of New Jersey held that the non-disparagement clause in the settlement agreement is against public policy and cannot be enforced. The court found that the LAD protects Savage’s statements. The court concluded that the non-disparagement clause in the agreement directly conflicts with the LAD as it encompasses and would bar speech the statute protects. The court reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded the case. View "Christine Savage v. Township of Neptune" on Justia Law

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The case involves a plaintiff, referred to as "Clara," who alleged that she was sexually assaulted by the defendant, referred to as "Martin," in June 2018. Following the incident, Clara applied for a temporary protective order (TPO) and then a final protective order (FPO) under the Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act of 2015 (SASPA). The trial court found that Clara had been subjected to nonconsensual sexual contact due to her extreme intoxication and that there was a possibility of future risk to Clara’s safety or well-being. The court issued an FPO directing Martin to have no contact with Clara.The Appellate Division reversed the trial court's decision based on the test used to assess consent. The Supreme Court of New Jersey reversed the Appellate Division's decision, holding that the affirmative consent standard is the correct standard to be applied in determining whether sexual activity was consensual under SASPA. The case was remanded for reconsideration.On remand, Clara testified about her ongoing trauma from the assault. The court found Clara’s testimony credible and Martin’s testimony not credible. The court held that consent to sexual contact was not affirmatively and freely given and found a significant risk to Clara’s psychological well-being should the order not remain in effect. The Appellate Division affirmed the trial court's decision. The Supreme Court of New Jersey granted certification limited to the interpretation of the statute regarding the possibility of future risk to the victim's safety or well-being.The Supreme Court of New Jersey affirmed the lower courts' decisions, holding that the plain language of the statute creates a standard that is permissive and easily satisfied. The court found that Clara's testimony about her ongoing trauma and fear for her safety was sufficient to demonstrate a "possibility of future risk" to her "safety or well-being." View "C.R. v. M. T." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff William DeSimone and a class of plaintiffs brought a suit against Springpoint Senior Living, Inc. (Springpoint) alleging that the company violated the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (CFA) with regard to representations about its entrance fee refund policy. The plaintiffs sought the return of “all monies received or collected from” them by Springpoint. The New Jersey Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, held that the refund provision in N.J.S.A. 56:8-2.11 is limited in scope, providing relief only to victims of food-related fraud as identified in Chapter 347 and does not extend to all CFA violations. The court explained that the plain meanings of “within” and “declared herein” suggest that N.J.S.A. 56:8-2.11 is limited in application to the provisions of Chapter 347. The court noted that Chapter 347 is not the only conduct-specific supplementary statute to provide additional rights and remedies, including consumer refunds. The court concluded that the allegations were unrelated to misrepresentations of the “identity of food,” hence, plaintiffs are not entitled to a full refund under N.J.S.A. 56:8-2.11. The court reversed and remanded the case back to the trial court. View "DeSimone v. Springpoint Senior Living, Inc" on Justia Law

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Above All Termite & Pest Control ("Above All") employed Henry Keim as a salaried pest-control technician and provided him with an employer authorized vehicle for work use. Above All’s policy limited the quantity of supplies technicians could keep in their authorized vehicles overnight. When technicians needed to replenish supplies, Above All authorized them to drive their vehicles to Above All’s shop instead of driving directly to a worksite, to retrieve whatever they required, and then to go from the shop to the scheduled sites. On the morning of the accident, Keim clocked in, received his schedule, and concluded that his vehicle lacked sufficient supplies. On his way to the shop for supplies, Keim sustained injuries in a car accident. The Judge of Compensation dismissed Keim’s claim petition with prejudice, concluding that Keim was merely commuting to work when he sustained injuries. The Appellate Division applied the “authorized vehicle rule” and reversed the dismissal order. The New Jersey Supreme Court concurred with the appellate court, finding Keim was “in the course of employment” under the “authorized vehicle rule” at the time of the accident because Above All authorized a vehicle for him to operate and his operation of that identified vehicle was for business expressly authorized by Above All. View "Keim v. Above All Termite & Pest Control" on Justia Law

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For five months when C.V. was a pre-kindergarten student in the Waterford Township School District, she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by Alfred Dean, the seventy-six-year-old bus aide who was supposed to be ensuring her safety. C.V.’s parents only discovered the abuse when C.V. came home without her underwear one day. C.V. and her parents sued the Waterford Township Board of Education and Waterford Township School District (collectively, Waterford) alleging, among other things, discrimination in a “place of public accommodation” “on account of . . . sex” in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD). The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Waterford and dismissed plaintiffs’ LAD claims. The court found plaintiffs could not, as a matter of law, prove to a jury that Dean’s conduct occurred because of C.V.’s sex, or that it would not have occurred but for C.V.’s sex. According to the trial court, “the but for element can’t be satisfied . . . where you have a compulsive sexual predator, a pedophile,” especially one who testified at his deposition “that he is a compulsive sexual abuser of children, boys and girls.” The Appellate Division affirmed, concluding that the LAD did not apply “to a sexual predator’s assault of a student on a school bus where there is no evidence his actions were based solely on the victim’s status as a member of a protected group.” The New Jersey Supreme Court reversed the Appellate Division’s judgment because it conflicted with Lehmann v. Toys ‘R’ Us, Inc., 132 N.J. 587 (1993) and L.W. v. Toms River Regional Schools Board of Education, 189 N.J. 381 (2007). The Court reiterated that under Lehman, sexual touching of areas of the body linked to sexuality happens, by definition, because of sex. The Court affirmed the denial of plaintiffs’ motion to amend their complaint and to obtain certain records, and we remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. View "C.V. v. Waterford Township Board of Education" on Justia Law

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The Church of St. Theresa (St. Theresa’s) owned and operated the St. Theresa School. St. Theresa’s terminated art teacher and toddler room caregiver Victoria Crisitello for violating the terms of her employment agreement. That agreement required employees to abide by the teachings of the Catholic Church and forbade employees from engaging in premarital sex; Crisitello, who was unmarried, had become pregnant. In response to her firing, Crisitello filed a complaint against St. Theresa’s alleging employment discrimination in violation of the Law Against Discrimination (LAD), based on pregnancy and marital status. St. Theresa’s countered that its decision to terminate Crisitello was protected by both the First Amendment and the LAD. The New Jersey Supreme Court held: (1) the “religious tenets” exception of N.J.S.A. 10:5-12(a) was an affirmative defense available to a religious entity when confronted with a claim of employment discrimination; and (2) the uncontroverted fact was that St. Theresa’s followed the religious tenets of the Catholic Church in terminating Crisitello. The Court thus concluded St. Theresa’s was entitled to summary judgment and that the trial court correctly dismissed the complaint with prejudice. View "Crisitello v. St. Theresa School" on Justia Law

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In this products liability matter involving “pelvic mesh” medical devices, the New Jersey Supreme Court considered whether defendant C.R. Bard, Inc., was denied a fair trial by the trial court’s determination that defendant could not present 510(k) clearance evidence -- evidence that, pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 360c, the devices were allowed to be marketed without premarket clinical trials -- to counter the product liability claims brought by plaintiffs Mary and Thomas Walsh McGinnis. North Carolina surgeon Dr. Elizabeth Barbee implanted Bard’s “Align TO” and “Avaulta Solo” pelvic mesh devices. In the months following surgery, McGinnis had to undergo numerous invasive surgeries to remove the mesh and repair internal damage, with limited success. In 2011, plaintiffs filed suit against defendant Bard under North Carolina law. Counsel agreed that the substantive issues would be tried under the law of North Carolina but that the issue of damages would be tried under New Jersey law. Plaintiffs moved in limine to bar defendant from presenting any evidence of the devices’ 510(k) clearance to the jury. The trial court found the 510(k) evidence inadmissible. The Appellate Division reversed, holding that the exclusion of any 510(k) evidence deprived defendant of a fair trial on the issue of negligence. The Supreme Court agreed that 510(k) evidence was generally inadmissible because the 510(k) clearance process solely determines substantial equivalency, and not safety and efficacy. However, in a products liability claim premised on the reasonableness of a manufacturer’s conduct in not performing clinical trials or studies, the Court held evidence of 510(k) clearance had significant probative value under N.J.R.E. 401 that was not substantially outweighed by the risk of prejudice and potential juror confusion under N.J.R.E. 403. Therefore, under the specific facts and circumstances of this case, the Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Division and remanded for a new trial. The Court disagreed with the Appellate Division’s decision regarding the scope and admissibility of 510(k) evidence and a Rule 104 hearing. To this, the Supreme Court believed the scope and admissibility of 510(k) evidence should be resolved at the hearing on a motion in limine, which was how the issue was and, presumably, would be raised. View "Hrymoc v. Ethicon, Inc." on Justia Law

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In three personal injury actions, the defendants required the plaintiffs to submit to a defense medical examination (DME). Plaintiffs, who had alleged cognitive limitations, psychological impairments, or language barriers, sought to record the examinations or to be accompanied by a third-party observer (TPO) at the examination. After various trial court rulings, the Appellate Division consolidated the cases for purposes of its opinion, and remanded all three for reconsideration in light of its six-part holding. The New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Division’s core holding that trial courts determine on a case-by-case basis what conditions, if any, to place on a DME -- including who may attend and whether it may be recorded -- with no absolute prohibitions or entitlements. The Court further affirmed that video recording, in addition to audio recording, should be included in the range of options; that the parties shall enter into a protective order when a defense expert is concerned about the disclosure of proprietary information; that when third-party observation is permitted, the trial court shall impose reasonable conditions to prevent any disruption of or interference with the exam; and that, if a foreign or sign language interpreter is needed, a neutral interpreter shall be selected by the parties or, failing agreement, by the court. The Court departed from the Appellate Division only in declining to place the burden on the plaintiff to show special reasons why third-party observation or recording should be permitted in each case. Instead, once the defendant issues notice to the plaintiff of a Rule 4:19 exam, the plaintiff should inform the defendant if they seek to bring a neutral observer or unobtrusively record the examination. If the defendant objects, the two sides should meet and confer to attempt to reach agreement. If agreement is impossible, the defendant may move for a protective order under Rule 4:10-3 seeking to prevent the exam from being recorded, or to prevent a neutral third-party observer from attending. View "DiFiore v. Pezic; Deleon v. The Achilles Foot & Ankle Group; Remache-Robalino v. Boulos" on Justia Law