Last year’s eye-opening decision in the case In re Garlock Sealing Technologies, LLC was shocking. We had long suspected that asbestos plaintiffs and their attorneys were gaming the system in order to increase their recoveries, but we had no idea just how big of a problem it was. Garlock showed that mitigating evidence had been withheld in almost all the cases brought against it over the past decade, but was the same thing happening in cases brought against other defendants? Continue reading
On Thursday, June 25, the New Jersey Senate will be voting on S3034, which would raise taxes on companies and individuals that have been ordered to pay punitive damages. Continue reading
Eye-popping verdicts become less notable when you are besieged by them day after day, but the New Jersey Law Journal’s 2015 Personal Injury Hall of Fame caused us to do a double take. Just twelve cases resulted in over $100 million in payouts.
Click here to see the full list of cases broken down by subject matter.
New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act has been turned into an instrument through which the plaintiff’s bar plays “gotcha,” turning harmless technical regulatory violations into cases which generate huge attorneys fees, and no real benefit for the consumers supposedly “harmed.” NJCJI is counting down the top 10 most absurd lawsuits filed under the CFA. Continue reading
The New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act was enacted in 1960 to protect New Jersey citizens against deceptive business practices. As one of the first consumer protection laws in the country, it served as the model for similar legislation in many other states.
The CFA was such an effective tool that the legislature and the courts greatly expanded its scope. Today, compliance with the CFA is burdensome, especially for New Jersey’s small businesses. As past lawsuits have demonstrated, the CFA is prone to abuse, incentivizes unnecessary litigation, and makes even technical violations extraordinarily costly to resolve.
Sen. Oroho (R-24) and Asm. O’Donnell (D-31) have recognized that it is time to adopt some basic, technical changes that will make the CFA less onerous while still providing strong protections to consumers. Senate Bill 2293 and its companion, Assembly Bill 3497, have been introduced in the New Jersey Legislature to do just that. Continue reading
In part, it’s, the human-versus-animal, possession-versus- humankind argument.
New Jersey resident Joyce McDougall witnessed her cute Maltese-poodle’s violent death at the hands (paws?) of another dog in Morris Plains. She filed suit for the cost of a replacement dog, and for emotional distress.
A trial court agreed that she should receive more than the cost to replace her pet and issued her $5,000. But being compensated for emotional distress was reserved for people who witness the violent death of a close family member, they said, based on the 1980 Portee v. Jaffee doctrine. The New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously upheld that decision this week.
In a much-needed reality check, Justice Helen Hoens observed that the vast majority of states do not allow owners to sue for emotional distress when their animals are killed. And beyond that, the Courts have been very limited in what they consider to be a “close family member” under this doctrine. The New Jersey Law Journal notes that an appellate court in the 1980s said it did not apply to a woman who saw her 5-year-old neighbor, with whom she was very close, mauled to death by a circus animal (Eyrich ex rel. Eyrich v. Dam, 193 N.J. Super. 244).
“It would make little sense, we think, to permit [the] plaintiff to recover for her emotional distress over the loss of her dog when she would be precluded from any such recovery if she instead had the misfortune of watching a neighbor’s child, whom she regarded as her own, torn apart by a wild animal,” Hoens said.
And if the Court were to expand Portee to include animals, it would open the floodgates for New Jerseyans to sue for emotional distress after watching heirlooms or other property destroyed, the Justices reasoned. As if New Jersey needs any help maintaining its status as a Judicial Hellhole…
Child sexual predators exist everywhere. They harm children from all demographics and shatter families from all socio-economic statuses. It often takes years for victims to come forward and bring their accusers to justice. Like most reasonable people, we understand this reality. And that is why a criminal statute of limitations does not exist in New Jersey, and is not in question.
What today’s legislation addresses is the ability of victims to sue for damages. The civil statute of limitations is a time limit on cases brought by accusers seeking monetary damages from sex abuses or their employers for the abuses they have suffered. The statute of limitations on these efforts is currently two years from the time a person realizes that they have been injured by sexual abuse, not from the act itself. Advocates maintain that this window is not long enough.
Senator Paul Sarlo and Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald agree. They have introduced legislation known as the Child Protection Act of 2012, which would bring the civil statute of limitations to 10 years from the time a victim realizes they have been abused instead of the 2 years currently on the books in New Jersey. And it would hold their employers and supervisors accountable from this point forward.
Unfortunately, that is not the legislation that the Senate will be voting on today. Today’s legislation, S-1651, would completely eliminate the civil statute of limitations in all sex abuse cases. And it would be applied retroactively, leaving all current board members and officials vulnerable to claims which may or may not have occurred decades ago. And unlike criminal trials, the burden of proof is much lower in civil cases, so mounting any sort of defense is likely in vain. The most damning cases would undoubtedly be the ones involving public schools and municipalities, because ultimately, it’s the taxpayer’s dime that will be used to settle claims.
Today’s legislation is well-intentioned. But it takes a step beyond what is rational under the American judicial system. Child sex abuse victims experience society at its worst. They shouldn’t have to carry the financial burdens of therapy as they move forward; it is the responsibility of the perpetrator and those who have failed the child. But the legislation being considered today swings too far in the opposite direction. New Jersey’s honest charities, volunteers, and taxpayers will be left exposed to a plethora of indefinite, unintended consequences and opportunities for the dishonest to take advantage of the law’s newly-expanded liabilities. And it’s an expense all of us will bear.
Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex) introduced legislation which would give judges more discretion in cases involving the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act. Under current law, the court is required to award threefold the damages sustained by any person in interest and attorneys’ fees, filing fees and reasonable costs if a violation occurs. This bill, A-3264, gives the court discretion in awarding damages. They would not be permitted to exceed three times the actual damages sustained by the consumer. The bill also provides that the consumer fraud act applies only to New Jersey residents and transactions that take place within the State. A-3264 has been referred to the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee. The full text can be found here, on the Legislature’s website.
A2035, which is being sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Greenwald (D-6) and Assembly Minority Leader Bramnick (R-21), would make several revisions to the law concerning motor vehicle franchises.