Appellate Reversal: TCA Notice Error in Taylor v. Morristown Housing
Docket No.: A-2725-22
Decided October 4, 2023
Submitted by New Jersey Personal Injury Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
In a recent unpublished decision, the Appellate Division overturned a denial of a Motion to Dismiss on behalf of Morristown Housing Authority (MHA) after plaintiff failed to notify them within time pursuant to the Torts Claim Notice Act (TCA).
In Taylor v. Morristown, On August 31, 2022, plaintiff filed a complaint alleging she was injured on September 11, 2020 when she slipped and fell on a “curb adjacent to 23 Clyde Potts Drive, in Manahan Village, Town of Morristown.” She further alleged the curb was “owned, operated, or maintained by” defendant Town of Morristown and John Does A-Z. Plaintiff amended her complaint to join MHA as a defendant on September 22, 2022.
MHA moved to dismiss under Rule 4:6-2(e) based on the TCA. It specifically claimed plaintiff failed to “(1) [provide] any notice of claim pursuant to N.J.S.A. 59:8-3 and -8(a);” or “(2) . . . seek leave to file a late notice of claim pursuant to N.J.S.A. 59:8-9.” MHA also argued plaintiff failed to file her complaint within the two-year statute of limitations pursuant to N.J.S.A. 59:8-8(b) and -9. In its application, MHA noted the court’s authority to convert the motion to one for summary judgment, applying the standard set forth in Rule 4:46-2(c). It also provided an undisputed statement of material facts, within which it asserted plaintiff never filed a notice of claim as required by the TCA.
Plaintiff conceded she did not provide any notice of her claim to MHA until she filed her amended complaint on September 22, 2022, more than one year after the May 2021 letter, and more than two years after the September 2020 incident. Plaintiff explained her lack of diligence by claiming the May 2021 letter was not reliable because it was uncertified and contained factual errors, such as referring to Howell Township at one point instead of Morristown. Instead, plaintiff argues, she immediately amended her complaint to join MHA once she received the certification of Morristown’s tax assessor from Morristown’s counsel. The certification indicated that MHA, not Morristown, owned the property at issue.
Morristown separately moved to dismiss under Rule 4:6-2(e) on a separate basis. It argued it did not own or control the property on which plaintiff alleged she was injured, and therefore, could not be liable for any injury occurring on that property. In support of its application, Morristown provided its tax assessor’s certification.
The trial court dismissed the motions to dismiss, finding that the facts outside the record cannot be considered for a motion to dismiss, and gleaning from the facts of the complaint and contentions of plaintiff, there was a factual dispute as to whether the requirements of the TCA had been met.
Defendants appealed and the Appellate Division found that the motion was denied in error, as when facts are added to a motion to dismiss, it should be treated as a summary judgment motion. Finding no material facts in dispute and viewing the record in support of plaintiff, the Appellate Division found that plaintiff had failed to timely notify MHA and Morristown had no grounds for liability. Plaintiff’s complaint was dismissed.
This case is important to understand the complexities of the Tort Claims Act and the requirements necessary for bringing suit against public employees and public entities. This case is a prime example of failing to act quickly and notify the entities at fault. The lesson is important to have competent counsel familiar with the complexities of notice and claim requires under the Tort Claims Act if you are injured involving a public entity or public employee.
If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident, truck crash, or slip and fall, call the experienced personal injury attorneys at Hark & Hark today. For personal injury matters, no money is paid up front, and fees are only collected if a recovery is made. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey Atlantic County, Bergen County, Burlington County, Camden County, Cape May County, Cumberland County, Essex County, Gloucester County, Hudson County, Hunterdon County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Morris County, Ocean County, Passaic County, Salem County, Somerset County, Sussex County, Union County, and Warren County and any town including Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, Elizabeth, Edison, Woodbridge, Lakewood, Toms River, Hamilton, Trenton, Clifton, Camden, Brick, Cherry Hill, Passaic, Middletown, Union City, Old Bridge, Gloucester Township, East Orange, Bayonne, Franklin Township, North Bergen, Vineland, and Union.