Search Site
The Importance of a Timely Notice of Claims Against Governmental Entities

In Tracey v. Borough of Essex Fells, a case recently decided by the New Jersey Appellate Division, the plaintiff was injured when an off-duty police car nearly struck him while jogging. At the time, Tracey did not believe he was injured, but he did file a police incident report. Two months later, Tracey sought treatment for knee pain, but was told there was no real damage, only minor swelling. Eight months later, however, plaintiff was diagnosed with a knee injury requiring surgery. The source of the injury was attributed Tracey’s earlier fall.

After learning of seriousness of the knee injury, Tracey submitted notice of suit to the municipality as required under the Tort Claims Act (TCA). Tracey moved before the Court to deem the notice as timely filed. The city moved to dismiss under N.J.S.A. 59:8–8, which required that, baring extraordinary circumstances, a claimant must provide the defendant with a notice of claim within 90 days. This Tort Claim Notice should include specific information, such as a general description of the injury, damage or loss incurred, and the amount claimed. The only exceptions to this rule are those situations in which the notice, although both timely and in writing, had technical deficiencies that did not deprive the public entity of effective notice. In order to deem a notice as timely filed, a claimant must show (1) lack of prejudice to the defending party; (2) a series of steps taken to comply with the statute; (3) a general compliance with the purpose of the statute; (4) a reasonable notice of claim; and (5) a reasonable explanation why there was not strict compliance with the statute.

Here, the court rejected Tracey’s argument and found that there were no extraordinary circumstances that would merit extending the 90 day TCA notice period, because Tracey did in fact discover that he had suffered an injury, albeit a minor one, within the 90-day period. On appeal, Tracey argued that by filing the police report he met the technical requirements and adequately put the municipality on notice. The Appellate Division rejected this argument and the panel held that incident reports are no substitute for the Tort Claim Notice. Specifically, the incident reports were not signed by the plaintiff, they were not filed with the municipality, and they gave no notice that the plaintiff was injured or intended to assert a claim against the public entity.

Tracey’s predicament in this case is an important lesson for litigants. As the case demonstrates, the Tort Claims Act sets rather strict time limitations on notice that are not easily relaxes absent extraordinary circumstances. The New Jersey environmental lawyers at Lieberman & Blecher regularly address issues of governmental tort immunity under the Tort Claims Act in toxic injury cases. For example, the firm recently filed a notice of claims against a school district for toxic mold injuries sustained by its students. In meeting the notice requirements of the TCA, it is important to timely and adequately describe the injuries a plaintiff has sustained and the relief that he or she is seeking. If you have questions about governmental tort immunity, our team may be able to assist you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Our Attorneys

Recent Twitter Posts

  • Environmental groups criticize the NJDEP's issuance of permits for the Meadowlands power plant.
    1 week ago
  • NJDEP Awards Edison $166,404 "Clean Communities" grant.
    3 weeks ago
  • Newark and Camden receive $400K each to clean up contaminated sites.
    2 months ago
  • Murphy Administration rejects golf course expansion onto Liberty State Park.
    2 months ago

Recent Blog Posts

United States Supreme Court Tackles Key Clean Water Act Judicial Review Issue

National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of Defense, et al. 583 U.S. ____ (2018) Decided January 22, 2018 Since the passing of the Clean Water Act in 1972, the definition of “the waters
Read More
United States Supreme Court Tackles Key Clean Water Act Judicial Review Issue

New Jersey Voters to Decide Important State Constitutional Amendment concerning the Environment

On Tuesday, November 7, 2017, New Jersey voters will be asked to decide on a state constitutional amendment regarding the use of natural resource damages collected by the State in
Read More
New Jersey Voters to Decide Important State Constitutional Amendment  concerning the Environment

Appellate Division Case Demonstrates Importance of Carefully Negotiated Escrow Agreements

Real estate transactions involving commercial and residential properties frequently employ the use of escrow agreements to address potential environmental issues.  This practice is widespread in New Jersey and it permits
Read More
Appellate Division Case Demonstrates Importance of Carefully Negotiated Escrow Agreements

NJDEP Updates Soil Remediation Standards for 19 Contaminants

Effective September 18, 2017, new soil remediation standards govern the cleanup of contaminated sites in New Jersey.  The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”) recently updated remedial standards for
Read More
NJDEP Updates Soil Remediation Standards for 19 Contaminants

In the media

  • Gulf Coast Town Center facing foreclosure

    Naples Daily News, September 16, 2015

    Wells Fargo filed a lawsuit Sept. 8 against an affiliate of CBL & Associates, the owners of the decadeold, 1.2 million-square-foot mall in south Fort Myers for a $190.9 million unpaid loan. The center has 94 stores on 204 acres, with such anchors as Super Target, Belk, Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Marshalls and Costco...

    Read More
  • Town liable for private company's leaking underground tanks, court rules Jul 26, 2017

    CRANFORD -- A couple that owned a businesses in town and became sick from leaking underground tanks owned by an adjacent business can sue the township for damages because the tanks were partially ...

    Read More
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
Contact Our Firm

Quick Contact Form