by
Defendant Asher Adelman established eBossWatch.com, which published an article, “'Bizarre’ and hostile work environment leads to lawsuit.” The article detailed a gender-discrimination, workplace-harassment, and retaliation lawsuit brought against Petro-Lubricant Testing Laboratories, Inc., and its chief executive officer and co-owner, John Wintermute (collectively Wintermute), by a former employee, Kristen Laforgia. More than a year after the article’s publication, Wintermute’s attorney sent a letter to Adelman, contending that the article was false and defamatory, Laforgia’s complaint was baseless, and that Laforgia and Wintermute had settled the lawsuit. In an email response, Adelman defended the article, stating that it was a reporting of Laforgia’s complaint, with a few modifications that, by Adelman’s opinion, made clear the article reported on what was filed in Laforgia’s complaint. Wintermute still filed a defamation action. The trial court found the modified article fell within the ambit of the fair report privilege and dismissed the defamation lawsuit. The Appellate Division disagreed with the trial court, holding that under the single publication rule, a new statute of limitations began to run only “if a modification to an Internet post materially and substantially alters the content and substance of the article.” The panel reasoned that “if a minor modification diminishes the defamatory sting of an article, it should not trigger a new statute of limitations.” The panel therefore dismissed as untimely Wintermute’s defamation lawsuit filed more than one year following publication of the original article. The panel did not decide whether the fair report privilege barred the action. The Court granted Wintermute’s petition for certification. The New Jersey Supreme Court determined genuine issues of disputed fact remained concerning whether Adelman made a material and substantive change to the original article, and the Appellate Division erred in dismissing the defamation action based on the single publication rule. However, the Court found the modified article was entitled to the protection of the fair report privilege. The article was a full, fair, and accurate recitation of a court-filed complaint. The trial court properly dismissed the defamation action, and on that basis the Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Division’s judgment. View "Petro-LubricantTesting Laboratories, Inc. v. Adelman" on Justia Law

by
The New Jersey State Health Benefits Commission (SHBC) and the School Employees’ Health Benefits Commission (SEHBC) (collectively, the Commissions) administered the New Jersey State Health Benefits Program (SHBP) and the School Employees’ Health Benefits Program (SEHBP), respectively. At issue was the method used by the Commissions to correct erroneously tiered reimbursement rates previously applied to members’ out-of-pocket expenses for out-of-network behavioral health services. In a separate matter involving a single plan member, the tiered reimbursement schedule was determined to have violated N.J.S.A. 52:14-17.46.7, which addressed the calculation of reimbursement rates for out-of-network health benefit services. Following that decision, the Commissions permitted members who paid for out-of-pocket behavioral health services and did not receive a proper reimbursement to obtain retroactive reimbursement for charges incurred between May 2009 and March 2014. The challenge before the New Jersey Supreme Court centered on the reasonableness of the Commissions’ notice to members who may have been affected by the application of the erroneous reimbursement rates. The Supreme Court reversed the Appellate Division’s holding and remanded the matter to the Commissions for further proceedings. “Significant questions exist concerning the extent of the notice actually provided, either by the Commissions or through their agents to active employees, former employees, and retirees, a hearing is necessary.” View "In the Matter of State and School Employees' Health Benefits Commissions' Implementation of I/M/O Philip Yucht" on Justia Law

by
In this appeal, the issue this case presented for the New Jersey Supreme Court's review focused on state action based on, among other grounds, the Religious Aid Clause of Article I, Paragraph 3 of the New Jersey Constitution, specifically its prohibition against the use of public funds “for the maintenance of any minister or ministry.” The challenge arose following the Secretary of Higher Education’s (Secretary) determination to award grant monies to a yeshiva and to a theological seminary as part of a state program to subsidize facility and infrastructure projects for higher education institutions. The Appellate Division determined that prior case law concerning the New Jersey Constitution’s Religious Aid Clause required invalidation of the grants to the yeshiva and theological seminary. The State maintained the proper constitutional analysis in this matter turned on the use to which these higher education institutions would put the monies, not the nature of the institutions themselves. The Supreme Court determined judicial review was premature because factual disputes required resolution before the Secretary could make a properly informed decision on the grant applications. Because an informed administrative decision could not have been made without the benefit of a proper record, the matter was remanded to the Secretary, in order that a contested case proceeding be conducted prior to the ultimate administrative decision of the Secretary concerning the challenged grants. View "American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey v. Hendricks" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner Jaclyn Thompson alleged that she was mentally disabled as a result of three incidents at work. Petitioner was a health and physical education teacher. She taught regular gym classes, coached, and served as an advisor and mentor. She also taught gym classes specifically geared toward students with disabilities. During three of petitioner’s classes, students punched, slapped, or pushed her. Petitioner sustained no physical injuries in the three incidents, and she required no medical treatment. Petitioner filed a request for accidental disability retirement benefits based on the three incidents. Her psychiatrist diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Board of Trustees of the Teachers’ Pension and Annuity Fund (Board) denied her request for accidental disability benefits but found petitioner qualified for a deferred retirement. Petitioner argued she met the requirement for mental disability because the incidents involved physical contact. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found petitioner did not meet the standard for accidental disability benefits. However, the ALJ granted her ordinary disability benefits. The ALJ found that she suffered from PTSD, that medication was ineffective at abating her symptoms, and that she was totally and permanently disabled from the performance of her regularly assigned duties. Petitioner appealed the denial of accidental disability benefits. The Board affirmed the ALJ. Petitioner then appealed to the Appellate Division. The majority of the panel affirmed. Finding no abuse of discretion, the New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Division. View "Thompson v. Board of Trustees, Teachers' Pension and Annuity Fund" on Justia Law

by
In New Jersey, juveniles adjudicated delinquent of certain sex offenses were barred for life from seeking relief from the registration and community notification provisions of Megan’s Law. That categorical lifetime bar cannot be lifted, even when the juvenile becomes an adult and poses no public safety risk, is fully rehabilitated, and is a fully productive member of society. Defendant C.K. was adjudicated delinquent for sex offenses committed more than two decades ago and challenged the constitutionality of N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2(g)’s permanent lifetime registration and notification requirements as applied to juveniles. After review of the specific facts of this case, the New Jersey Supreme Court concluded subsection (g)’s lifetime registration and notification requirements as applied to juveniles violated the substantive due process guarantee of Article I, Paragraph 1 of the New Jersey Constitution. “Permanently barring juveniles who have committed certain sex offenses from petitioning for relief from the Megan’s Law requirements bears no rational relationship to a legitimate governmental objective.” The Court determined that in the absence of subsection (g), N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2(f) provided the original safeguard incorporated into Megan’s Law, and a criminal defendant may petition to be released from registration and notification requirements when a superior court judge is persuaded the defendant has been offense-free and does not likely pose a societal risk after a fifteen-year look-back period. Defendant may apply for termination from the Megan’s Law requirements fifteen years from the date of his juvenile adjudication, and be relieved of those requirements provided he meets the standards set forth in N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2(f). View "New Jersey in the Interest of C.K." on Justia Law

by
The issue this case presented for the New Jersey Supreme Court’s review centered on whether defendant Todd Dorn’s right to a grand jury presentment under the New Jersey Constitution was violated when the trial court permitted the State, on the eve of trial, to increase the charge in count two of defendant’s indictment from a third-degree to a second-degree drug offense. The Court also considered whether it was proper for the trial court to admit into evidence a copy of a map showing that defendant’s home was within 500 feet of public housing, a public park, or public building. The Supreme Court concluded the amendment to count two of defendant’s indictment was a violation of defendant’s right to grand jury presentment under the New Jersey Constitution, and remanded the conviction on count two to the trial court. The Court also found defendant waived his right to object to the map’s authentication. View "New Jersey v. Dor" on Justia Law

by
In March 2012, New Jersey State Trooper John Faust pulled over a 2002 Mercury Sable with a damaged taillight on Interstate 295. The driver, Shonsheray Chandler, had changed lanes without signaling. There were passengers in Chandler’s car: her six-year-old daughter, who was in the back seat, and defendant Malcolm Hagans, sitting in the front passenger seat. Faust smelled the odor of burnt marijuana in the vehicle. Faust ultimately arrested defendant, handcuffed him, called for back-up, and administered Miranda warnings. Faust also handcuffed Chandler and placed her in the backseat of his police vehicle. Chandler denied knowing defendant had marijuana on him and denied that she had been smoking marijuana in the car. Faust requested Chandler consent to a search of her vehicle. Faust asked whether she would give consent, and Chandler responded “no.” Faust then discussed his next steps: “I know, but at this time . . . we are going to apply for a search warrant, okay, and that is kinda going to prolong the inevitable. I would just like it to be easier.” Chandler replied, “Go ahead.” Faust then inquired, “What’s that ma’am?,” to which Chandler repeated “Go ahead.” Faust asked, “Are you sure?” Chandler answered, “Yeah.” Faust countered, “So you’re saying yes?” Chandler responded, “Yes.” The issue that exchange presented for the New Jersey Supreme Court was whether Chandler’s consent was valid after she initially denied the officer’s request to search it. The Supreme Court found that because the trial court’s determination that the driver ultimately knowingly and voluntarily gave consent to search is supported by sufficient credible evidence, the trial court properly denied defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence seized during the search. View "New Jersey v. Hagans" on Justia Law

by
This case arose from a car accident in Florence Township, New Jersey. The car driven by plaintiff Mark Krzykalski was in the left lane traveling north, and the car driven by defendant David Tindall was directly behind plaintiff’s car. As the left-lane traffic proceeded through an intersection, a vehicle in the right lane driven by John Doe unexpectedly made a left turn, cutting off the cars in the left lane. Plaintiff was able to stop his car without striking the vehicle in front of him. Defendant, however, was unable to stop in time and rear-ended plaintiff’s vehicle. This case was brought under the Comparative Negligence Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:15-5.1 to -5.8 (CNA), and the question presented for the New Jersey Supreme Court's consideration centered on whether a jury should be asked to apportion fault between the named party defendant and a known but unidentified defendant (John Doe). The Court concluded the jury properly apportioned fault between the named party defendant Tindall and the John Doe defendant because plaintiff and defendant acknowledged the role of John Doe in the accident, plaintiff’s Uninsured Motorist (UM) carrier was aware of the litigation, and plaintiff had “fair and timely” notice that defendant would assert that John Doe was the cause of the accident. View "Krzykalski v. Tindall" on Justia Law

by
The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit certified two questions of New Jersey law to the New Jersey Supreme Court arising from two putative class actions brought under the New Jersey Truth-in-Consumer Contract, Warranty and Notice Act (TCCWNA). Plaintiffs David and Katina Spade claimed that on or about April 25, 2013, they purchased furniture from a retail store owned and operated by defendant Select Comfort Corporation. They alleged that Select Comfort’s sales contract included the language prohibited by N.J.A.C. 13:45A-5.3(c). The Spades also alleged the sales contract that Select Comfort provided to them did not include language mandated by N.J.A.C. 13:45A-5.2(a) and N.J.A.C. 13:45A-5.3(a). The Third Circuit asked: (1) whether a violation of the Furniture Delivery Regulations alone constituted a violation of a clearly established right or responsibility of the seller under the TCCWNA and thus provided a basis for relief under the TCCWNA; and (2) whether a consumer who receives a contract that does not comply with the Furniture Delivery Regulations, but has not suffered any adverse consequences from the noncompliance, an “aggrieved consumer” under the TCCWNA? The New Jersey Supreme Court answered the first certified question in the affirmative and the second certified question in the negative. View "Spade v. Select Comfort Corp." on Justia Law

by
The New Jersey Supreme Court found that counsel for both sides raised an intriguing question in this case: whether an identification made by a law enforcement officer should be tested by the same standards that apply to a civilian. The State presented strong evidence that defendant Dorian Pressley distributed cocaine. According to the testimony at trial, defendant sold two vials of cocaine directly to an undercover detective. At the end of the face-to-face exchange, defendant gave the detective his phone number and told her to store the number under the first three letters of his name. A second officer observed the transaction. Immediately after the sale, the undercover officer transmitted a description of defendant to a supervisor. The second officer also radioed information about defendant’s movements. About four blocks from where the sale took place, a third officer stopped defendant, who matched the description. The officer realized he knew the suspect and let him go to protect the ongoing undercover operation. Back at headquarters, the third officer printed a photo of defendant. The undercover detective also returned to headquarters. Within one hour of the transaction, she viewed the single photo of defendant and said she was certain that the individual in the picture had sold her the two vials. Defendant was arrested and convicted after trial of third-degree possession of heroin, third-degree distribution of cocaine, and third-degree distribution of cocaine within 1000 feet of a school. On appeal, defendant argued that the trial court should have held a pretrial hearing to evaluate the reliability of the identification. After review, the New Jersey Supreme Court found that it could not determine whether part or all of the protections outlined in New Jersey v. Henderson, 208 N.J. 208 (2011) should apply to identifications made by law enforcement officers: “Even if the trial judge in this case had held a pretrial hearing, though, it is difficult to imagine that the identification would have been suppressed. Although showups are inherently suggestive, ‘the risk of misidentification is not heightened if a showup is conducted’ within two hours of an event. Here, the identification took place within an hour. In addition, the trial judge gave the jury a full instruction on identification evidence, consistent with Henderson and the model jury charge.” The Court affirmed the Appellate Division and upheld defendant’s convictions. View "New Jersey v. Pressley" on Justia Law