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7 posts from May 2012

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bruce Harris nomination tomorrow, 10 a.m.

Some say it's a done deal: Bruce Harris, Mayor of Chatham and Governor Christie's Supreme Court nominee, won't be approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow. 

The Star-Ledger reported this last week (Spoto, 5/22), and others have weighed in since.  Here is a sampling:

"Before a second of testimony has been heard or a single question has been asked, once again Democrats are disrespecting the nomination process and rushing to judgment to kill another qualified man’s nomination before he even sits in the committee room."- Kevin Roberts, spokesman for Governor Christie

"The nomination of Mr. Harris sends the wrong message, that we can only achieve diversity on the Supreme Court through lowering the bar for qualifications.  In a state with many distinguished African-American lawyers and judges, nothing could be further from the truth." – Senator Ronald Rice, leader of the NJ Black Legislative Caucus

"I don’t think it’s going to be an extremely long hearing because there’s just not a lot of experience to question him on," Senator Nick Scutari, Senate Judiciary Chair

(and of course)

"It's interesting that someone like Nick Scutari, with his educational background [found Harris unqualified]" - Governor Christie

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A win for common sense

As you may recall from a previous post, a Morris County judge was being asked to decide whether a woman who sent a text message to her boyfriend just before he caused a serious accident could be held liable. 

Judge David Rand rejected the plaintiff’s effort to hold the text sender liable.   “Were I to extend a duty of care [to the text sender] in this case, in my judgment any form of distraction could potentially serve as a basis of liability,” he said. 

The case was believed to be the first of its kind.  Morris County motorcyclists who were severely injured and each had a leg amputated sued Kyle Best, the driver of the car, as well as his girlfriend, from whom he was receiving a text message at the time he caused the accident.  The injured parties claimed that she knew or “should have known” the driver would be reading the text while driving, even though she wasn’t with him in the vehicle. 

According to a Daily Record report, the plaintiffs’ attorney is planning to appeal.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

NJ Needs Class Action Reform - Support A894 in AJU Committee on Monday!

A894, sponsored by Assemblymen Chuisano and Wisniewski, would allow defendants to appeal a class action certification immediately. This means that defendants who believe the court made a mistake will not have to incur the time and expense of going to trial only to have to do it all over again because the class certification was erroneous from the start.

Learn more about A894 and how it would affect class action lawsuits and New Jersey's economy here.  

Please support A894 in the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Monday, 5/21, at 10:00 a.m. in Committee Room 12

Committee members:

Assemblyman Peter J. Barnes, III (D18), Chair 

Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D20), Vice Chair  

Assemblyman Ralph R. Caputo (D28) 

Assemblyman Gordon M. Johnson (D37) 

Assemblyman John F. McKeon (D27) 

Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll (R25) 

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R39) 

New Jersey Needs Class Action Reform. Support A-894

Monday, May 14, 2012

A driver reads a text and causes a serious accident. But it might be the sender’s fault.

A New Jersey court will soon decide whether a woman who sent a text message to an irresponsible teenager is liable for the accident he caused.

It was a horrible accident: the Morris County teenager, tinkering with unimportant texts while behind the wheel, struck a motorcycle ridden by a couple.  They were severely injured and each had a leg amputated.  They’ve described it as being in prison, and their lives will never be the same. 

To make matters even worse, the driver, Kyle Best, received a mere slap on the wrist – a nominal fine and some community service.  The law didn’t even require his license be revoked.  He’s free to drive and risk the penalties for texting while driving again if he so chooses. 

But the couple’s attorney has filed a lawsuit against not just the teenager – but the person he was conversing with via text at the time of the accident. 

“The victim's lawyer claims the woman aided and abetted the driver's negligence by texting him when she knew or should have known he was driving,” according to an Associated Press report.  “However, her lawyer is seeking to have her dismissed as a defendant, saying she had no control over when the driver would read the message. He also claims the legal arguments made by the victims' attorney are not supported by case law.”

The Daily Record reports that Morris County Superior Court Judge David Rand is expected to decide on May 25th whether to dismiss Shannon Colonna, the woman who sent the text message to Best, as a defendant in the suit. 

NJLRA mused over the implications if the court finds the text-sender liable: will people need to sign waivers before we can hand them a bottle opener?  It would open a legal can-of-worms bound only by a lawyer’s imagination and ability.  What’s next, “the phone made me do it”?

It’s a painful situation in which New Jerseyans have to wonder how our legal system became so unfair.  Dismissing the claim against Colonna wouldn’t right the wrongs committed against the couple.  But it would help bring common sense and personal responsibility back into the legal equation. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Update: Conaway/Weinberg bill to protect certain volunteer physicians, nonprofit clinics, and FQHCs advances from Assembly Health Committee

A-2178 was unanimously supported by the committee’s democrats.  Using the hypothetical example of a doctor’s spouse who may create a nonprofit organization and employ said doctor as a volunteer, Assemblyman Erik Peterson expressed concern that there may be an opportunity for some to take advantage of the law.  He abstained awaiting clarification.  Assemblyman David Rible voted against it. 

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Protecting those who help others is gaining traction in New Jersey

In recent years, concerns regarding civil liability have prompted some entities and individuals to think twice before getting involved during an emergency. 

A trio of bills, including one which is scheduled for consideration by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee on Thursday, seeks to change that.


A-2178/S-1165                          Status: on AHE agenda, 5/10/12

Many New Jerseyans rely on healthcare services offered by federally qualified health centers, nonprofit clinics, and retired-but-certified volunteer physicians who provide treatment.  The threat of liability for these individuals and entities, however, is a powerful disincentive.   Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Herb Conaway and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg would provide civil immunity to the aforementioned acting in good faith. 


A-2099/S-1416                        Status: 2nd reading the Assembly

When a West Virginia woman was unable to speak after calling 9-1-1, first responders arrived at her home but did not have consent to forcibly enter.  She was later found dead by family members.  An assembly committee approved legislation which would grant civil immunity to first responders who must forcibly enter a property in order to provide emergency assistance.  It awaits consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee (contact Senator Scutari).    


 A-832/S-852                        Status: Signed into law

Automatic external defibrillators can save lives if they are used within the first few minutes of a cardiac arrest.  That is why the John Taylor Babbitt (JTB) Foundation made it its mission to fundraise and donate AEDs to places of public assembly, according to the Chatham Patch and Mendham-Chester Patch.  The problem the Foundation encountered is that for each device donated, 8 – 10 were being rejected.  The reason, according to JoAnne Babbitt, is that some organizations, including churches, youth recreation leagues, and schools, will not accept a donated AED because of the increased liability they assume.  AEDs were not covered under New Jersey’s Good Samaritan law. 

Fortunately, that changed with the stroke of a pen last week, as the Governor signed A-832/S-852 into law with overwhelming legislative support from both parties.  Senator Nicholas Scutari was the lone legislator to vote against it.  New Jersey has joined the ranks of 43 other states which grant civil immunity to those who own or utilize an automatic external defibrillator (AED) during a cardiac arrest. 


Let’s hope the positive momentum help A2178 and S1416 materialize as well. 

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

New Jersey's doctors are on treacherous ground

New Jersey is treacherous ground for physicians. 

Few people deny that the earth is getting warmer.  And few people deny that New Jersey’s exodus of doctors (the so-called “Medical Brain-Drain”) will affect New Jerseyans’ access to healthcare. 

There are likely many reasons behind this phenomenon, as the Department of Health and Senior Services Summit (S173), if enacted, hopes to uncover.  High cost of living and a lack of tax incentives are frequently cited, as are the costs of liability of insurance (click here for one New Jersey’s medical student’s story). 

And with respect to the number of claims filed against physicians each year, New Jersey is an outlier among states. 

Comparing New Jersey to Ohio, for instance, is revealing: despite having a population which exceeds New Jersey’s by two and a half million, the Garden state had 630 medical liability claims in 2011 to Ohio’s 287.   New Jersey even managed to surpass Texas, which has nearly three times the number of residents, in the number of medical liability claims last year (Texas had 550 claims in 2011, in case you were wondering). 

“A physician shortage crisis is right around the corner in New Jersey if we do not take immediate steps to change course,” J. Richard Goldstein, president and CEO of the New Jersey Council of Teaching Hospitals, said in a 2010 news release. “National health reform, while laudable and needed, will only work to accelerate the time when there simply will not be enough doctors to serve New Jersey’s adults and children.”

Should meaningful medical liability reforms continue to stagnate, despite Dr. Goldstein’s warnings, New Jersey will continue to educate other states’ physicians, at the cost access to care for New Jersey’s residents.