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A Price Tag on Inconvenience? (NJ)

June 27, 2019

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<p style="text-align: justify;">In <a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/LLoyds-v.-PSEG-1.pdf"><em>LLoyds v. PSEG</em></a>, the NJ appellate court considered whether a homeowner’s damages were limited to the cost of alternate shelter or whether the homeowner may seek additional damages based on a broader concept of inconvenience. The facts are as follows: a strong winter storm caused a high-voltage power line belonging to Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&amp;G) to fall and ignite fires in plaintiffs’ homes. Plaintiffs were displaced from their respective homes for ten months. Although the plaintiffs’ homeowners insurance reimbursed them for the repair costs and extended stays in motels during their displacement, plaintiffs filed suit against PSE&amp;G for loss of use of their homes, emotional distress, and personal injuries.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">After being found liable in the first phase of a bifurcated trial, PSE&amp;G argued that the individual plaintiffs had no loss and could not recover for pure "non-pecuniary" loss. The trial court granted PSE&amp;G summary judgment and dismissed all remaining claims of non-economic damage.  The Appellate Division reversed the trial courts holding.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The Appellate Court relied heavily in the legal concepts expressed in <u>Camaraza v. Bellavia Buick Corp.</u>, where it held a motor vehicle owner’s damages were not necessarily limited to the rental cost of a replacement. The court recognized that property owners, much like vehicle owners, may be damaged by more than just repair costs when unable to make use of their property. The Court found that the mere fact that plaintiffs were provided motel rooms and reimbursed meal and transportation costs by their insurance carriers did not foreclose their right to seek other damages resulting from the loss of the use of their homes. Citing to <u>Camaraza</u>, the Appellate Court held that damages in such circumstances “are not limited to pecuniary losses which are capable of precise measurement.”</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The Appellate Court held that the damages arising from the non-economic loss, which included the “inconvenience” from being denied the use of their home, the hardship of sleeping in a hotel, missing holidays in their family home, etc. should be a question of fact for the jury to decide.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Thanks to Steve Kim for his contribution to this post.  Please contact <a href="mailto:BGibbons@wcmlaw.com">Brian Gibbons</a> with questions.</p>

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