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This appeal arose from 532 product-liability claims filed against Hoffmann-La Roche Inc. and Roche Laboratories Inc. (collectively Roche), corporations with their principal places of business in New Jersey. Roche developed, manufactured, marketed, and labeled Accutane, a prescription medication for the treatment of severe and persistent cases of acne. Plaintiffs alleged Accutane caused them to contract inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and that Roche failed to give adequate label warnings to advise them of the known risks of the medication. At issue for the New Jersey Supreme Court was : (1) what law governed whether Roche’s label warnings were adequate (the law of each of the 45 jurisdictions in which plaintiffs were prescribed and took Accutane or the law of New Jersey where the 532 cases are consolidated); and (2) the adequacy of the label warnings for the period after April 2002. The Court found that because Roche’s warnings received the approval of the FDA, they enjoyed a “rebuttable presumption” of adequacy under New Jersey’s Products Liability Act (PLA). The Court reversed all cases in which the Appellate Division reinstated plaintiffs’ actions against Roche. "New Jersey has the most significant interests, given the consolidation of the 532 cases for MCL purposes. New Jersey’s interest in consistent, fair, and reliable outcomes cannot be achieved by applying a diverse quilt of laws to so many cases that share common issues of fact. Plaintiffs have not overcome the PLA’s presumption of adequacy for medication warnings approved by the FDA. As a matter of law, the warnings provided physicians with adequate information to warn their patients of the risks of IBD." As a result, the 532 failure-to-warn cases brought by plaintiffs against Roche were dismissed. View "Accutane Litigation" on Justia Law

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William Hendrickson, Jr. worked as a fire safety inspector with the Department of Community Affairs. While on duty, he uttered an obscene and belittling remark about a female supervisor overheard by two of his colleagues. The DCA brought three disciplinary charges against Hendrickson. In September 2014, after a departmental hearing on the disciplinary charges, the DCA issued an order terminating Hendrickson’s employment. The ALJ held that Hendrickson uttered a gender slur in a workplace environment and therefore violated the State’s policy prohibiting gender discrimination and engaged in conduct unbecoming a public employee. Although the ALJ was troubled by Hendrickson’s failure to acknowledge his wrongdoing, she reasoned that removal was “too harsh” a punishment given Hendrickson’s lack of a disciplinary record in the fifteen months before and nine months after the incident. She instead ordered Hendrickson suspended for six months. The ALJ forwarded the decision to the Civil Service Commission, and both parties filed exceptions. Hendrickson argued that the discipline was too severe, and the DCA argued that termination was the appropriate punishment. Failing to reach a quorum, the ALJ's decision was deemed adopted by the Civil Service Commission. The Appellate Division reversed the ALJ’s decision and reinstated the DCA’s termination of Hendrickson’s employment, acknowledging the ALJ’s decision “was 'deemed-adopted’ as the Commission’s final decision. Nevertheless, the panel held that because the vacancies on the Commission disabled it from forming a quorum and acting, “the deemed-adopted statute does not require traditional deferential appellate review of the ALJ’s decision.” The New Jersey Supreme Court determined the Appellate Division erred in suggesting appellate review of a disciplinary sanction imposed by a judge was de novo and different from traditional appellate review of an agency determination. Consequently, and based on a deferential standard of review, the Supreme Court could not conclude the ALJ's decision was shocking to a sense of fairness, and affirmed the ALJ's decision. View "In the Matter of William R. Hendrickson, Jr., Department of Community Affairs" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Maureen McDaid brought a negligence action against defendants Aztec West Condominium Association; Preferred Management, Inc., the Association’s management company; and Bergen Hydraulic Elevator, the elevator-maintenance provider. The complaint alleged that McDaid suffered serious injuries when she was exiting the elevator and the elevator doors unexpectedly and “repeatedly” closed on her. At the end of the discovery period, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants and dismissed McDaid’s complaint. The court rejected the application of the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, finding that the malfunctioning of elevator doors is not an occurrence that “ordinarily bespeaks negligence.” More specifically, the court stated that McDaid “did not refute the contention that the electric eye, being a mechanical device, is subject to failure from time to time totally unrelated to negligence.” The New Jersey Supreme Court found that because the malfunctioning of elevator doors that close on a passenger bespeaks negligence, giving rise to a res ipsa inference, the trial court improvidently granted summary judgment. View "McDaid v. Aztec West Condominium Association" on Justia Law

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This interlocutory appeal presented two issues: (1) whether the State may rely solely on a hearsay certification to support a motion for an order to compel a buccal swab; and (2) whether the affidavit in this case provided sufficient probable cause to support the search. Two Jersey City police officers answered “a call of shots fired.” While investigating, one of the officers discovered a .357 handgun on the ground. That same night, a detective responded to investigate reports that a male had been shot near the area where shots were allegedly fired. At the hospital, the detective encountered defendant who had sustained a bullet wound on his left leg. While officers examined defendant’s pants, defendant said, “so I shot myself, that ain’t no charge.” Analysis of the gun, bullets and shell casings were used as grounds for a grand jury indictment of defendant for weapon possession offenses. Five months after defendant’s indictment, the State moved for an order compelling defendant to submit to a buccal swab. The Appellate Division granted defendant’s motion for leave to appeal and reversed the trial court’s order, reasoning that even if the assistant prosecutor’s hearsay certification could establish probable cause, the court’s order authorized an “unreasonable search, chiefly because of the timing of the request,” and because the New Jersey DNA Database and Databank Act of 1994 did not justify the intrusion. The New Jersey Supreme Court granted the State’s motion for leave to appeal. Although an affidavit of a police officer familiar with the investigation is preferable, the Court determined a hearsay certification from an assistant prosecutor could support probable cause to compel a defendant to submit to a buccal swab if it set forth the basis for the prosecutor’s knowledge. Furthermore, an affidavit or certification supporting probable cause to compel a buccal swab must establish a fair probability that defendant’s DNA will be found on the evidence. Here, the State failed to show probable cause. View "New Jersey v. Gathers" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose out of a discovery dispute in a medical malpractice action involving a hospital’s and its staff’s care of a patient. The parties disagreed over the boundaries of privileged material under the Patient Safety Act (PSA), N.J.S.A. 26:2H-12.23 to -12.25c, and plaintiff’s ability to receive responsive discovery in order to prepare her action. The New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the appellate panel’s order shielding the redacted document at issue from discovery because the PSA’s self-critical-analysis privilege prevents its disclosure. The Court also affirmed the determination that, when reviewing a discovery dispute such as this, a trial court should not be determining whether a reportable event under the PSA has occurred. The Court reversed the judgment to the extent it ended defendants’ discovery obligation with respect to this dispute, finding that defendants had an unmet discovery duty under Rule 4:17-4(d) that had to be addressed. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Brugaletta v. Garcia" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from plaintiff Lucia Serico’s motion for attorney’s fees and other litigation expenses pursuant to Rule 4:58 after a jury trial on medical malpractice claims against Robert Rothberg, M.D. At issue was whether Serico could collect attorney’s fees from Rothberg despite entering into a “high-low agreement” that limited the amount she could recover at trial to $1,000,000. Based on the expressed intent of the parties and the context of the agreement, the New Jersey Supreme Court found the agreement set $1,000,000 as the maximum recovery. Therefore, Serico could not seek additional litigation expenses allowed by Rule 4:58. View "Serico v. Rothberg" on Justia Law

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In this case, the issue presented for the New Jersey Supreme Court's review was whether the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (Commission) appropriately issued fines and suspensions without holding hearings. The Commission sent notices of proposed suspension to the dealers. The notice also informed the dealers of their right to request a hearing. Each dealer acted pro se and requested a hearing in writing. Each provided explanations for the alleged violations but did not deny the allegations. The Commission denied the requests for hearings and issued an order of suspension/final administrative decision letter to each dealer. The Commission ruled that each dealer had “failed to identify any disputed material fact(s), legal issue(s) and/or specific mitigating circumstances to be resolved at a hearing,” and interpreted the dealers’ responses as admissions. The Appellate Division panel consolidated the appeals and affirmed the Commission’s imposition of suspensions and fines, determining that the Commission could decide cases “without a trial-type hearing when there are no disputed adjudicative facts.” The panel found that the fines challenged by the dealers were authorized by N.J.S.A. 39:10-20, and the Commission could impose fines under the statute on a case-by-case basis. The New Jersey Supreme Court found that if the reasons given by the dealers presented a colorable dispute of facts or at least the presence of mitigating evidence, the Commission was required to provide an in-person hearing pursuant to N.J.S.A. 39:10-20. "An in-person hearing must be held prior to a license suspension or revocation when the target of the enforcement action requests it." View "Allstars Auto Group, Inc. v. New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission" on Justia Law

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Defendant J.L.G. was tired for: first-degree aggravated sexual assault; third-degree aggravated criminal sexual contact; second-degree endangering the welfare of a child; and third-degree witness tampering. Defendant’s stepdaughter, “Bonnie,” testified at trial about an escalating pattern of sexual abuse that defendant carried out against her for roughly eighteen months, from when she was fourteen and defendant was about thirty-two. Defendant pointed a gun at Bonnie and threatened to hurt her, her mother, or her brother if word got out. Bonnie told no one about the abuse. A close friend of Bonnie’s mother visited the family apartment and found defendant lying on top of Bonnie. When Bonnie’s mother heard about the incident, she threatened to kill defendant. Bonnie was afraid her mother would follow through and denied any sexual activity. Although Bonnie claimed she wanted to tell her mother, she also did not “want her to do anything for her to get locked up.” The jury convicted defendant of all four counts. On appeal, defendant challenged the admissibility of the CSAAS testimony. The Appellate Division affirmed the convictions. The New Jersey Supreme Court held that expert testimony about CSAAS in general, and its component behaviors other than delayed disclosure, may no longer be admitted at criminal trials. "Evidence about delayed disclosure can be presented if it satisfies all parts of the applicable evidence rule." In particular, the State must show that the evidence is beyond the understanding of the average juror. "That decision will turn on the facts of each case. Here, because the victim gave straightforward reasons about why she delayed reporting abuse, the jury did not need help from an expert to evaluate her explanation." The expert testimony about CSAAS introduced at trial was harmless, and the Supreme Court affirmed defendant’s convictions. View "New Jersey v. J.L.G." on Justia Law

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In March 2013, the Civil Service Commission (the Commission) published amendments to the New Jersey Administrative Code (the Proposed Rule). The Proposed Rule introduced the concept of a “job band,” defined as “a grouping of titles or title series into a single broad band consisting of title levels with similar duties, responsibilities, and qualifications.” Under the Proposed Rule, employees could advance between banded titles without competitive examinations, and the appointing authority would have the discretion to choose among all of the candidates who demonstrated the required competencies, rather than choosing among the three highest-ranking eligibles. In the Commission’s view, there was “no Constitutional or statutory impediment to the advancement of employees to different levels within a single title without a formal, competitive examination.” On June 27, 2013, the Legislature passed a concurrent resolution declaring the Proposed Rule inconsistent with the legislative intent of the Civil Service Act. On December 4, 2013, the Legislature transmitted the concurrent resolution, commencing the thirty-day period for the Commission to amend or withdraw the rule. The next day, however, the Senate commenced the second phase of the Legislative Review Clause by introducing a concurrent resolution invalidating the Proposed Rule. At issue before the New Jersey Supreme Court was the Legislature’s first exercise of its constitutional authority under the Legislative Review Clause and the threshold question of whether and under what standard a court could review concurrent resolutions as to agency rules and regulations. The Court determined a court could reverse the Legislature’s invalidation of an agency rule or regulation pursuant to the Legislative Review Clause if: (1) the Legislature has not complied with the procedural requirements of the Clause; (2) the Legislature has incorrectly asserted that the challenged rule or regulation was inconsistent with “the intent of the Legislature as expressed in the language of the statute which the rule or regulation is intended to implement,” N.J. Const. art. V, § 4, ¶ 6; or (3) the Legislature’s action violates a protection afforded by any other provision of the New Jersey Constitution, or a provision of the United States Constitution. To determine legislative intent, a court should rely exclusively on statutory language and not apply a presumption in favor of either the Legislature’s findings or the agency’s exercise of its rulemaking authority. In this case, the Supreme Court found no procedural defect or constitutional infirmity in the Legislature’s actions. The Legislature correctly determined that N.J.A.C. 4A:3-3.2A conflicted with two provisions of the Civil Service Act. View "Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO v. New Jersey Civil Service Commission" on Justia Law

Posted in: Constitutional Law

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In September 2011, the Middlesex County New Jersey Prosecutor’s Office opened a narcotics investigation into Tyrell Johnson that later swept in defendant Danyell Fuqua. In the early morning hours, and after obtaining a search warrant, officers entered a motel room. There, the officers found defendant, Johnson, and six children between the ages of one and thirteen - three were defendant’s children, one was Johnson’s child, and two were defendant’s relatives. The small room had a kitchenette, two beds, and a bathroom. On the kitchen table, officers found marijuana; between the beds officers discovered pill bottles containing multicolored pills, bags of heroin, and a large bag of cocaine. Johnson pled guilty to drug distribution charges, and a jury convicted defendant of endangering the welfare of children. Defendant challenged the endangerment conviction, arguing the State had to prove actual harm to children to convict under the applicable statute. The New Jersey Supreme Court found the trial court and Appellate Division correctly determined a conviction under N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4(a) could be sustained by exposing children to a substantial risk of harm. View "New Jersey v. Fuqua" on Justia Law