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Plaintiff Fails to Meet Monetary Threshold of New Jersey Torts Claims Act

October 31, 2016

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In <a href="http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/opinions/a2932-14.pdf"><em>Perez v. City of Elizabeth</em></a>, the plaintiff sued several Elizabeth Township police officers and the City of Elizabeth, alleging that she suffered injuries when the officers used excessive force to arrest her.  The plaintiff was charged with a juvenile complaint stemming from the incident, and plead guilty to an obstruction charge. Plaintiff’s complaint against the officers and township alleged various common law and negligence claims, and claims of violation of the New Jersey Civil Rights Act.
Defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff’s guilty plea in the criminal matter barred any claim under the Civil Rights Act.  Defendants also argued that the plaintiff’s injuries did not overcome the permanency threshold as required under the New Jersey Torts Claims Act.  The trial court granted defendants’ motion for summary.
On appeal, the court partially reversed, finding that there were divergent accounts surrounding the arrest, which constituted an issue of material fact.  The court found that plaintiff’s guilty plea did not contradict her position on the excessive force claims.  The court did find that plaintiff’s injuries failed to satisfy the $3,600 monetary threshold of the Torts Claims Act, since the plaintiff failed to provide competent evidence of any past or anticipated future medical bills.
In conclusion, this case highlights the importance of obtaining the soliloquy of any guilty plea entered in a corresponding criminal proceeding.  This case also highlights the importance of the defense requesting copies of all medical bills related to a plaintiff’s injuries in a case involving the Torts Claims Act.
Thanks to Heather Aquino for her contribution to this post.
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