Late Notice of Tort Claim Approved? Not So Fast (NJ)
In New Jersey, a plaintiff sought to file a late notice of tort claim identifying a police officer that she claimed was responsible for her injuries. The plaintiff in Pagan v. Rivera sought help from the police department when she was threatened by a former boyfriend in violation of an Order of protection. Despite plaintiff’s concerns that the former boyfriend could be hiding in her apartment, the responding officer instructed her to go into the building to retrieve her identification and a copy of the Order. The plaintiff’s fears proved accurate, and she was assaulted inside the building.
In New Jersey, the Torts Claims Act requires that persons who have claims against public entities or their employees provide a notice of the claim within ninety (90) days. While the plaintiff filed a timely notice, she failed to properly name the responding officer. Although her complaint was filed in Federal Court, the plaintiff filed motion for leave to file a late notice of tort claim in New Jersey Superior Court. The motion was granted.
On appeal, the Appellate Court concluded that the Superior Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the motion, and that the motion should have been filed in Federal Court. The court also determined that the defendant was entitled to oral argument on the motion, and that the trial court improperly decided the motion on the papers.
This matter confirms that a defendant should always ensure that a court has jurisdiction for all pleadings and motions. Additionally, a defendant should always push for, and insist on, oral argument for important decisions.
Please contact Heather Aquino with any questions.