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|Claims Against Public Entities|
The New Jersey Tort Claims Act provides that a public entity is not liable for any injury, whether such injury arises out of an act or omission of the public entity or employee. N.J.S.A. 59:2-1. Therefore, this act only applies to claims grounded in tort and the negligent actions of state employees. It does not affect liability based on contract and the right to obtain relief other than damages against the public entity or its employees. N.J.S.A. 59:1-4. The Tort Claims Act imposes certain limitations on judgments against public entities. N.J.S.A. 59:9-2: First, the act provides that no insurer or other person shall be entitled to bring an action under a subrogation provision in an insurance contract against a public entity or public employee. N.J.S.A. 59:9-2 (e). Furthermore, if claimant receives or is entitled to receive benefits for the injuries allegedly incurred from an insurance policy or any other source other than a joint tortfeasor, such benefits shall be disclosed to the court and the amount thereof which duplicates any benefit in the award shall be deducted from any award against a public entity recovered by such claimant. Second, a judgment can not be granted against a public entity or public employee on the basis of strict liability, implied warranty or products liability. Third, no punitive or exemplary damages shall be awarded against a public entity. Finally, damages for pain and suffering resulting from any injury shall not be awarded, except in cases where there is permanent bodily injury. Claims against public entities should be filed with either the Attorney General or the department or agency involved in the alleged wrongful act or omission. N.J.S.A. 59:8-7. Notice of the claim must be filed within ninety (90) days after the accrual of the cause of action. N.J.S.A. 59:8-8. The date of accrual for tort claims against public entities and private entities is when the tort is committed. N.J.S.A. 59:8-1. If the claimant fails to file his/her claim ninety (90) days after the accrual of the claim, at the discretion of a judge of the Superior Court, he/she may be permitted to file such notice at any time within one (1) year after the accrual of his/her claim provided it will not prejudice the public entity. N.J.S.A. 59:8-9. However, extraordinary circumstances for a failure to file the claim must be proven by the claimant. Six (6) months after the claim has been filed, the claimant may file suit in the appropriate court of law. N.J.S.A. 59:8-8. A claimant is forever barred from recovering against public employee if: 1. He/she failed to file his/her claim within ninety (90) days of the accrual of his claim; or 2. Two (2) years have elapsed since the accrual of the claim; or 3. The claimant or his authorized representative entered into a settlement agreement with respect to the claim. N.J.S.A. 59:8-8. When bringing a claim under the Tort Claims Act, the claim should include: a. The name and post-office address of the claimant; b. The post-office address to which the person presenting the claim desires notices to be sent; c. The date, place and other circumstances of the occurrence or transaction which gave rise to the claim asserted; d. A general description of the injury, damage or loss incurred so far as it may be known at the time of the presentation of the claim; e. The name or names of the public entity, employee or employees causing the injury, damage or loss, if known; and f. The amount claimed as of the date of presentation of the claim including the estimated amount of any prospective injury, damage, or loss, insofar as it may be known at the time of the presentation of the claim, together with the computation of the amount claimed. However, a lack of stated damages will not bar a claim if the damages are not known at the time the claim is presented. Dambro v. Union Cty. Pk. Comm., 130 N.J. Super 450, 458 (Law Div. 1986). Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 59:8-6 a public entity by rule or regulation may adopt forms specifying information to be contained in claims filed against it. These forms must contain all the requirements of N.J.S.A. 59:8-4. and may also include additional information or evidence as: 1. Written reports by claimant’s attending physician or dentists; 2. A list of claimant’s expert witnesses; 3. Itemized bills for medical, dental, and hospital expenses incurred, or itemized receipts of payment for such expenses; 4. Documentary evidence showing amounts of income lost; 5. A statement of anticipated expenses for future treatment, if necessary; and 6. A claimant may be required to submit to a physical or mental examination by a physician employed by the public entity and the public entity may be allowed to inspect all appropriate records relating to his claim for liability and damages including, but not limited to income tax returns, hospital records, medical records and employment records. _ The Tort Claims Act Specifically Provides Immunity for Public Entities and Employees for Certain Civil Actions Arising From: 1. Roadway Solicitations: A public entity shall not be liable for property damages arising out of or in the course of roadway solicitations for the purpose of soliciting contributions, conducted by charitable organization. N.J.S.A. 59:2-1.1. 2. Computer Failures: A public entity can not be held liable for damages cause either directly or indirectly by failure of computer hardware, software or any device containing a computer processor. N.J.S.A. 59:2-1.2. 3. Acts By Public Employees: A public entity is liable for any injury proximately caused by an act or omission of a public employee within the scope of his/her employment in the same manner and to the same extent as a private individual under like circumstances. If the public employee is not liable than the public entity is not liable either. N.J.S.A. 59:2-1.3(a) (b). 4. Discretionary Activities: A public entity is not liable for an injury resulting from; a. The exercise or judgment or discretion vested in the entity. b. Legislative or Judicial action or inaction. c. For determining whether to seek or provide resources necessary for adequate governmental services. d. Determining whether and how to utilize and apply its existing resources. N.J.S.A. 59:2-3 (a)-(d). 5. Adoption or Failure to Adopt or Enforce a Law: N.J.S.A. 59:2-4. 6. Issuance, Denial, Suspension, or Revocation of Permit, License, etc.: N.J.S.A. 59:2-5. 7. Failure to Inspect, or Negligent Inspection of, property: This section does not exonerate the public entity from the liabilities it does have as provided by the Tort Claims Act. N.J.S.A. 59:2-6. 8. Recreational Facilities: A public entity is not required to provide supervision of public recreational facilities. N.J.S.A. 59:2-7 9. Public Assistance: A public entity is not liable for injuries caused by the termination of public assistance programs. N.J.S.A. 59:2-8 10. Public Employee Conduct: A public entity is not liable for the acts or omissions of a public employee constituting a crime, actual fraud, actual malice, or willful misconduct. N.J.S.A. 59:2-10. _ Liability and Immunity of Public Employees: A public employee is liable for any injuries caused by his acts or omissions to the same extent as a private person, notwithstanding the exception provided by the Act. N.J.S.A. 59:3-1(a). Furthermore, a public employee is not liable for any injury where a public entity is immune from liability for that injury. N.J.S.A. 59:3-1(b). The Tort Claims Act exempts public employees from; 1. Discretionary Activities: N.J.S.A. 59:3-2 (a)-(d). 2. Execution of Laws: An employee is not liable for any injury caused so long as he acts in good faith in the execution or enforcement of the law. This section does not exonerate an employee for false arrest or false imprisonment. N.J.S.A. 59:3-4 3. Acting Under Unconstitutional, Inapplicable or Invalid Laws: If an employee is acting under a law deemed to be unconstitutional, inapplicable or invalid he can only be held liable to the degree that he would be if the law had been constitutional, applicable, or valid. N.J.S.A. 59:3-3. 4. Adoption or Failure to Adopt any Law: N.J.S.A. 59:3-5 5. Issuance, Denial, Suspension or Revocation of Permit, License, etc.: N.J.S.A. 59:3-6. 6. Failure to Inspect, or Negligent Inspection of Property: N.J.S.A. 59:3-7. 7. Institution or Prosecution of Judicial or Administrative Proceeding: N.J.S.A. 59:3-8. 8. Entry Upon Property: A public employee is not liable for his entry upon any property where such entry is expressly or impliedly authorized by law. However, an employee is not exonerated from damage he proximately caused subsequent to entering the property as a result of his own negligent or wrongful act or omission. N.J.S.A. 59:3-9. 9. Misrepresentation: An employee so long as he was acting within the scope of his employment is not liable for an injury caused by his misrepresentation. 10. Recreational Facilities: N.J.S.A. 59:3-10. 11. Public Employee Immunity Exception: Nothing in this act exonerates an employee from liability if it is established that his conduct was outside the scope of his employment or constituted a crime, actual fraud, actual ,malice or willful misconduct. N.J.S.A. 59:3-14(a).
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