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In an expansion of governmental tort immunity, the New Jersey Appellate Division recently ruled in Turner v. Township of Irvington that public entities cannot be held liable for a 9-1-1 operators' conduct regardless of their level of culpability.
The 9-1-1 operator at issue acted with willful and wanton conduct when they were the cause of a delayed police response to a domestic violence situation, which ultimately led to one person being shot. The Court found that while N.J.S.A. 52:17C-10(d) shielded the municipality and their 9-1-1 operators from civil liability for the negligent mishandling of emergency calls, the statute does not protect them from conduct that was wanton and willful. Nevertheless, the municipality was held to be immune from liability under the Torts Claims Act (“TCA”). The Court ruled that the municipality was insulated from”[l]iability for such willful and wanton employee misconduct under the TCA's limitation on public entity liability contained in N.J.S.A. 59:2–10,” which states, “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.” This ruling provides municipality’s broad immunity with respect to the conduct of their 9-1-1 operators.
At Lieberman & Blecher, our attorneys handle many cases involving municipalities and other public entities. Our governmental teams represent municipalities and other local government entities in environmental, land use and real state redevelopment matters. Our toxic tort team represents clients who may sometimes have claims against entities that may assert governmental tort immunity.