Share |

Key Legal Developments

Our Clients Speak
Also See...

» Legal Services in the News

» Our Client Stories

» Justice Gap Reports

Donate Now


Appellate Division decision affirms judgment for treble damages and attorneys’ fees under the Used Car Lemon Law.  

The basic case in Cooper v. Baladi was straightforward:  The consumer purchased a car that had between 60,000 and 100,000 miles on the odometer, and was less than 7 model years old.  Thus under the NJ Used Car Lemon Law the dealer was required either (a) to provide a warranty for 30 days or 1,000 miles, with a maximum deductible of $50, or (b) obtain a waiver in separate written document setting forth the warranty rights being waived.  Instead, the dearer attempted to sell the car “as is” with a service contract less favorable than the Lemon Law warranty rights, thus violating the CFA.  The car turned out to need a major repair within the first few days, which the dealer refused to provide free of charge (even after the consumer sent a repair or repurchase demand letter, to which the dealer did not respond) -- another CFA violation.

An interesting twist in the case was the measure of damages – The Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s award of 3x the amount the consumer paid for the car, less a use allowance (totaling $28,000+), rather than 3x the cost to repair (about $6,600).  Although the decision does not say so, presumably the damages were based on the dealer’s failure to comply with its repurchase obligation under NJSA 58:6-71(a). 

This is an unpublished opinion and does not constitute precedent nor is binding upon any court.

07/27/18: Kwok Fang Chang Trust v. Estate of Sylvia Malakoff - Tenant, Sylvia Malakoff, signed a lease with a death clause whereby the lease would terminate upon her death. Prior to tenant’s death, her son, Jay, and grandson, Eitan, resided with her. Jay had resided with tenant for thirty four years. Landlords knew of his existence. In fact, when landlord demanded payment for the water bill, the landlord would send an invoice addressed to "Tenant: Jay Malakoff.

06/29/18: Bernice Pisack v. B & C Towing Inc - The Appellate Division issued a strong published decision today reinstating CFA and other claims in three cases against towing companies for charging unauthorized add-ons including “administrative fees,” “labor charges,” “yard charges,” and “credit card surcharges,” in violation of the Predatory Towing  Prevention Act and the Division of Consumer Affairs’ implementing regulations.

Here is the court’s summary of the specific substantive issues it addressed:
we hold that: (1) the Towing Act does not require the exhaustion of administrative remedies before the Division of Consumer Affairs (Division) or dispute resolution procedures established by municipalities that have towing ordinances; (2) the Tort Claims Act (TCA) does not provide immunity against claims based on the fees companies charge for non-consensual towing of vehicles; and (3) the Towing Act and its regulations limit the services for which a towing company can charge. We also hold that the TCCWNA applies to the non-consensual towing of vehicles because the bills issued by towing companies are contracts and notices within the definition of the TCCWNA.

05/10/18: In Newton Medical Center v. D. B., the Appellate Division of the Superior Court addressed the question of whether a patient who requires emergent psychiatric treatment, resulting in his involuntary commitment to a hospital, should be treated differently for Charity Care purposes than a patient who suffers a physical injury or illness. The issue arose out of the hospital’s attempt to recover payment from an indigent mental health patient. In the hospital’s collection action, summary judgment was entered in favor of the Newton Medical Center when the trial court determined that admission to a Short-Term Care Facility (STCF) through a referral from the county psychiatric emergency screening service (PESS) was not an admission through “the emergency room”. Accordingly the trial court holding determined that the hospital’s denial of Charity Care due to the patient’s inability to complete the necessary application was proper pursuant to the time limitations governing planned admissions as set forth in N.J.A.C. 10:52-11.5.

On appeal, in a published opinion, the Appellate Division reversed, holding that a STCF hospitalization by way of a PESS referral was an emergency admission triggering the heightened screening requirements of N.J.A.C. 10:52-11.16, which require that a hospital engage in post-discharge outreach procedures to non-responsive, indigent emergency room patients. Therefore, because plaintiff failed to contact defendant by phone at least twice, and schedule an in-person interview or send a social worker to his address in order to obtain the necessary information to process his Charity Care application, plaintiff was barred from recovering from defendant. More specifically, pursuant to N.J.A.C. 10:52-11.14, the hospital’s case against the patient was dismissed inasmuch as “[p]ersons determined to be eligible for Charity Care shall not receive a bill for services or be subject to collection procedures.” (January 17, 2018)

05/02/18: On Wednesday, May 2, 2018, New Jersey became the 10th state to enact a law guaranteeing employees paid sick leave. The law applies to most, but not all employees (e.g., it does not apply to employees working under a collective bargaining agreement). The New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act requires employers to provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Employees may accrue up to 40 hours of sick leave per year and carry over up to 40 hours to the next benefit year unless the employer allows the employee to accept payment in lieu of carrying over sick days. Under the new law, employers must pay the same rate for sick leave as an employee’s usual pay.

The new law will take effect on October 29, 2018, 180 days after enactment. Workers may begin using paid sick leave 120 days after it is accrued, unless the employer offers paid sick leave up front, without requiring employees to wait until they have accrued the leave. Employers may also offer more paid sick leave than the law requires. Employers that already have policies with at least the same paid leave as the law requires are already in compliance with the law.

Under the new law, employers are required to provide sick leave to workers experiencing their own mental or physical health issues. It also covers other scenarios. Workers are entitled to paid sick leave to care for an ailing family member. Paid sick leave may be used when a workplace or school/day care is closed due to a public health emergency or when the worker or worker’s family member poses a threat to the health of others. Employees who must take leave to address circumstances related to domestic or sexual violence (e.g., medical attention, psychological services, legal services, court proceedings) for themselves or a family member are also covered by the law. Finally, employees may use paid sick leave to attend school-related conferences regarding a child’s health condition or disability.

If the sick leave is foreseeable, the employee is expected to give advanced notice (seven calendar days) to the employer. The employer may prohibit employees from taking foreseeable sick leave on particular dates. If the leave is not foreseeable, the employee must give notice to the employer as soon as practicable. For absences of three or more days, employers may require documentation from a medical professional.

Violations of the new law (e.g., an employer refuses to pay for sick leave) will be treated as wage violations. The law provides a private right of action and liquidated damages for violations, and it explicitly prohibits retaliation against workers asserting their rights under the new law. The New Jersey Department of Labor will promulgate regulations to implement the law.

04/27/18: In State in the Interest of C.K., the NJ Supreme Court held that a subsection of Megan’s Law - N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2 (g) -- which imposes an irrebuttable presumption that individuals convicted of certain offenses are irredeemable, even when posing no risk to the public and are fully rehabilitated, is unconstitutional as applied to juveniles. The Court will now permit such defendants to prove, no earlier than 15 years after their initial adjudication and by clear and convincing evidence, that they have not reoffended and no longer pose a threat to others and so can be relieved of Megan’s Law obligations & restrictions.

04/25/18: On February 27, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in the case of Jennings v. Rodriguez, which posed the question of how long individuals can be detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) during the pendency of removal proceedings until they should be afforded a custody or bond hearing.

The Jennings decision involved the “mandatory detention” provisions of §236(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) that were enacted with the passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) in September of 1996. IIRIRA contained many important changes to the INA such as limiting eligibility for relief from removal and subjecting people convicted of certain criminal offenses to “mandatory detention” upon release from their sentence for the underlying criminal offense. The scope of the “mandatory detention” provisions of §236(c) have been the subject of ongoing litigation, on the questions of whether and when someone can seek release from ICE custody on bond while removal proceedings are pending against them. (Read more)

04/05/18: Cottman v. Board of Review - In this published unemployment decision, the Appellate Division reversed the disqualification imposed by the New Jersey Department of Labor for leaving work voluntarily without good cause attributable to the work. Just before Ms. Cottman was to begin her workday, her babysitter unexpectedly quit, leaving her without child care for her three disabled children. She attempted to find a replacement to work her shift, but she was unsuccessful. (Read more)

03/16/18: State v. Terry, N.J. Super (Albin, J.) (79 pp.) The state appealed from the appellate division's reversal of the trial court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress evidence found in a search of his vehicle. Police officers stopped defendant's vehicle after it ran a stop sign and almost struck the patrol car. Defendant initially failed to stop when officers activated their lights and sirens, eventually pulling into a gas station. Officers blocked in defendant's vehicle, and with weapons drawn ordered defendant to show his hands, which defendant ignored. The officers then ordered defendant to exit his vehicle, with defendant slow to comply. The officers then asked defendant for the vehicle's registration and insurance; when defendant failed to respond, one officer searched the vehicle's glovebox, observing a handgun on the passenger floorboard. The trial court denied defendant's motion to suppress the handgun, ruling that because defendant failed to produce his vehicle's registration and insurance, the officers had the right to search for those documents where they are typically kept, and concluded that the officer observed the handgun pursuant to the plain view doctrine. On appeal from a jury conviction, the appellate division reversed, ruling that the warrantless search of defendant's vehicle was unconstitutional. The court reversed the appellate division, ruling that where a driver failed to comply with a reasonable opportunity to produce a vehicle's registration, officers could conduct a limited search in places where a vehicle's registration would typically be kept, unless officers could otherwise readily determine that the driver or any passengers were the vehicle's lawful possessor. The court found that defendant's failure to produce the vehicle's registration, in combination with his behavior, raised a reasonable suspicion that the vehicle defendant was driving was stolen. In a dissenting opinion, Chief Justice Rabner noted that because officers had access to electronic vehicle registration record, there would be few circumstances justifying a warrantless credentials search.

03/01/18: State v. A.M. - An important published decision on language access by the Appellate Division finding that defendant whose primary language was Spanish was not provided adequate interpretation by a bilingual police officer who served as defendant’s interpreter. The interrogation was conducted with a mix of English and Spanish and the officer testified that he had never been formally trained or certified as an interpreter. The Appellate Division found that defendant’s waiver of his Miranda rights was not knowing, intelligent or voluntary because of the quality of the interpretation.