160 posts categorized "The Legislature"

Thursday, April 03, 2014

State Bar Forum on Judicial Independence Long on Complaints, Short on Solutions

The New Jersey State Bar Association’s Task Force on Judicial Independence held the first of its four public hearings on April 1, 2014, at the New Jersey Law Center.  Though over 20 people testified at the three-hour hearing, few offered concrete suggestions for how the court system could be improved. The majority of the testimony focused on perceived problems with the system.

Continue reading "State Bar Forum on Judicial Independence Long on Complaints, Short on Solutions" »

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Legislative Trend That’s Increasing Your Liability: Fee-Shifting

Fee-shifting provisions are showing up in proposed legislation in New Jersey with increasing frequency. These provisions, which allow prevailing plaintiffs to recover attorney’s fees and court costs, encourage frivolous litigation, discourage settlement, and drive up the cost of lawsuits.

Continue reading "The Legislative Trend That’s Increasing Your Liability: Fee-Shifting" »

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Top News Clips for the Week of March 8-14

A selection of the need-to-know civil justice news for the week of March 8-14, 2014.

 

Flushability of Wipes Spawns Class-Action Lawsuit

U-Jin Lee | ABC News

A New York doctor has filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the makers of "flushable" wipes after experiencing what he claims were major plumbing and clogging issues in his home.

“The defendants should have known that their representations regarding flushable wipes were false and misleading,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit by Dr. Joseph Kurtz, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., cites Kimberly-Clark and Costco Wholesale corporations and seeks damages of at least $5 million.

Full Story.

 

 

An Elected Attorney General? Lawmaker Wants to Let Voters Choose, Not Christie

Matt Friedman | The Star-Ledger

Some now say the time has come to make New Jersey’s top law enforcement official more responsive to the public and less beholden to the governor, and one lawmaker has introduced a measure to do just that. The issue has taken on added urgency with the apparent decision by the Attorney General’s Office to stay out of the George Washington Bridge investigation, much to the annoyance of veteran prosecutors in the office.

Full Story.

 

 

Has Supreme Court lost its zeal to curb consumer class actions?

Alison Frankel | Reuters

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to grant review to two small Nebraska banks facing class action allegations that they failed to post stickers on ATM machines to alert users about add-on fees. That might not seem like a surprise, except that the certiorari petition by the banks’ counsel at Mayer Brown raised a question that the Supreme Court has previously struggled with: whether class action plaintiffs asserting federal laws that provide statutory damages have constitutional standing to sue even if they haven’t suffered any actual injury. The justices heard a different case posing the exact same question in 2011 in First American Financial v. Edwards, but didn’t resolve the issue because they dismissed the appeal on the last day of the term in June 2012. Class action opponents like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Washington Legal Foundation and the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals were hoping that the Nebraska banks’ case was a new chance to end litigation by uninjured plaintiffs whose small, individual statutory damages claims turn into a big nuisance when they’re accumulated in class actions.

Full Story. 

 

 

Can Panel Compel Kelly, Stepien to Release Bridgegate Emails?

Mark J. Magyar | NJ Spotlight

The future of the Legislature’s Bridgegate investigation is in the hands of a Superior Court judge who will decide whether Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien, the deputy chief of staff and campaign operative who are the only two staffers Gov. Chris Christie has fired, must turn over emails and other communications related to the infamous George Washington Bridge lane closures.

Full Story.

 

 

Family Feud Ends for NJ Teen Rachel Canning and her Parents

Ben Horowitz | The Star-Ledger

Rachel Canning, the 18-year-old who sued her parents for support after an escalating family squabble, returned home last night, an attorney for the couple said today.

Angelo Sarno, who represents the Cannings, would not say what sparked the reconciliation, but said the parents welcomed her back.

Full Story.

 

 

2013 Civil Justice Update: Recently Enacted State Reforms and Judicial Challenges

Andrew C. Cook | Federalist Society

The purpose of this paper is to provide a comprehensive national survey of both recent court decisions ruling on challenges to existing civil justice laws and the newly enacted civil justice reforms. This paper has two main parts: Part I describes state and federal court rulings in 2013 and Part II describes legislation passed during the year’s legislative session.

Full Story.

 

 

Chevron Case Shows Why We Must Police Lawsuit Fraud

Lisa A. Rickard | U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform

Terms like “racketeering,” “extortion,” “money laundering” and “wire fraud” are typically more associated with the Mafia than plaintiffs’ lawyers. But in a landmark ruling last week, a New York federal judge used these terms to describe conduct by a lawyer.

Full Story.

 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Christie Outlines Budget Priorities

On February 26, Gov. Christie delivered his budget address to a joint session of the legislature, officially kicking off negotiations on the state’s FY 2015 budget. The legislature’s focus for the next few months will essentially be on the budget, as it must be passed by July 1.

 

Continue reading "Christie Outlines Budget Priorities" »

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Top News Clips for the Week of Feb. 15-21

A selection of the need-to-know civil justice news for the week of February 15-21, 2014.

Continue reading "Top News Clips for the Week of Feb. 15-21" »

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Bridgegate Update

The Bridgegate scandal continues to dominate the New Jersey political scene, drawing the media’s and the legislature’s attention away from other issues. The ripple effects of the investigation are being felt well beyond the legislature as the number and scope of subpoenas increases.

Continue reading "Bridgegate Update" »

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Top News Clips for the Week of Jan. 25-31

A selection of the need-to-know civil justice news for the week of January 25-31, 2014.

 

Opinion: Background Checks - ‘Ban the Box’ is Not the Answer

Jon Bramnick|The Record

As Americans, we believe in giving people a “second chance.” The proposed “Ban the Box” legislation is not the answer to the problem of a job applicant with a criminal history.

 

Imagine you are looking to hire someone to care for your elderly mother. That person will be alone with her and will have access to her home and her possessions.

 

After receiving applications for the job, you discover that one of the applicants has a criminal history of assault and theft. One would presumably be concerned about hiring that person to assist your mother.

 

You may not have a choice if “Ban the Box” legislation is enacted.

Full Story.

 

Continue reading "Top News Clips for the Week of Jan. 25-31" »

Session Scorecard

Though the 216th Session of the New Jersey Legislature has just started, a number of bills of interest to NJCJI have already been filed. Click here to view the Session Scorecard and check back often as we will keep it updated throughout the session with the status of bills we both support and oppose.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Top News Clips for the Week of Jan. 18-24

A selection of the need-to-know civil justice news for the week of January 18-24, 2014.

How to Sue Over the Christie Bridge Scandal and Win

John Culhane | Slate

As New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie tries to recover from the fallout for his administration’s participation in the vindictive decision to close lanes and snarl traffic on the George Washington Bridge for five days, he will get no help from lawsuits brought by angry citizens stuck in the mess. The first suit has already dropped. These claims will surely breed others. They could keep the story alive for years. And they could even result, unusually, in personal liability for the officials involved, including, perhaps, the governor himself.

Full Story.

Continue reading "Top News Clips for the Week of Jan. 18-24" »

Friday, January 17, 2014

2014 Legislative Agenda

New Jersey’s businesses face a stagnant economy coupled with high business costs, but our members know that New Jersey’s economy is taking another serious hit – from excessive litigation. During the 2014 legislative session the New Jersey Civil Justice Institute will advocate for legislation that ensures that New Jersey's civil justice system treats all parties fairly and discourages lawsuit abuse.

Continue reading "2014 Legislative Agenda" »

Legal Impacts of Bridgegate

You can’t turn on the news, open a paper, or scroll through your Twitter feed these days without being inundated with stories about the George Washington Bridge lane closing scandal. While most stories focus on the political fallout, there are real legal implications that deserve attention as well.

 

Here's Who's Behind The Huge Civil Lawsuit From The Chris Christie Bridge Scandal

Brett LoGiurato | Business Insider

Four-hour delays. Late for work. Lost wages. Late for crucial doctor's appointments.

Some of these alleged hardships are at the heart of a proposed class-action complaint in the burgeoning George Washington Bridge scandal. The complaint was filed last Thursday, the day after new revelations tying the administration of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to the lane closures.

Full Story.

 

Chris Christie hires law firm to review administration's role in 'Bridgegate'

By Statehouse Bureau | Asbury Park Press

A former federal prosecutor will head up an internal review by the administration of Gov. Chris Christie of his staff’s involvement with the politically motivated lane closings on the George Washington Bridge in September 2013.

The administration this morning announced the hiring of the Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher law firm and specifically Randy Mastro to assist both with the review and an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office into the closings, which snarled traffic for four days in Fort Lee.

Full Story.

 

Bridge scandal: Chris Christie's Nominees Delayed

By Jenna Portnoy | The Star-Ledger

The ongoing scandal over George Washington Bridge lane closures is having more ripple effects through Gov. Chris Christie’s administration.

The Republican governor has put on hold his plan to nominate John Hoffman, his acting attorney general, to the state Superior Court. The move comes as the nomination of Christie’s chief of staff, Kevin O’Dowd, is also in a holding pattern.

Full Story.

 

Good Samaritan Bill Passes Unanimously, Awaits Governor’s Signature

As the previous legislative session wound down, the Senate voted 36-0 in favor of an important piece of legislation that would grant immunity from liability for certain professional services rendered during emergencies.

Continue reading "Good Samaritan Bill Passes Unanimously, Awaits Governor’s Signature" »

Friday, November 15, 2013

Legislative Update - bill to extend appeal bond cap advances

S-3030, the Economic Opportunity Act of 2013 II, advanced from the Senate Commerce Committee on Thursday, November 14th.  Part of a larger economic growth package, Section 3  would cap appeal bonds at $50 million. 

New Jersey law requires a defendant to post an appeal bond at least equal to the full amount of the judgment.  However, in 2003 the Legislature approved a $50 million cap on appeal bonds for tobacco companies that participated in the Master Settlement Agreement. 

This bill would extend that cap to all defendants.  Under the bill, a court would have discretion, after notice and hearing and for good cause shown, to reduce the appeal bond to an amount lower than the judgment. 

The bill is sponsored by Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-Union).  It now heads to the Senate Budget Committee for additional review. 

CLICK HERE for more information on Section 3, the appeal bond cap

Previous coverage

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Remember to #vote for #Governor today!

Chris Christie
Governor Chris Christie (R), Incumbent
  
Barbara_Buono_cc_img
Senator Barbara Buono (D), Challenger

 

Polls close at 8:00 pm.  Look up your polling location here

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fernandez-Vina nomination clears Senate Judiciary Committee

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to advance the nomination of Faustino Fernandez-Vina.  If confirmed by the full Senate, he would replace Justice Helen Hoens, whom Governor Christie declined to renominate.  

The Court currently has two vacancies, reflecting a three-year impasse between the Governor and Senate leadership.   

 

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Wins for Lesniak, Gill

Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) and Senator Nia Gill (D-Essex) defeated primary challengers earlier this week.  Senator Lesniak, who chairs the Economic Growth Committee, easily defeated Roselle school board member Donna Obe.  Senator Gill, who chairs the Commerce Committee, defeated law professor Mark Alexander. 

Both Lesniak and Gill serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Legislative update: Social media and statute of limitations

The General Assembly is scheduled to consider changes requested by Governor Christie to the so-called ‘Facebook bill,’ which would prohibit employers from asking for the passwords and login information of current and prospective employees, on Monday, May 20th.  The bill, A-2878, was conditionally vetoed by the Governor last week, citing concerns that sections 4 and 5 would “paint with too broad a brush” and prevent employers from making informed choices about hires for positions requiring social media credentials.   Assembly sponsor John Burizchelli (D-Gloucester) has stated that even with the Governor’s changes, "the integrity of the bill is intact."

The State Senate voted to revise a bill to extend the civil statute of limitations in certain previously dismissed and time-barred cases on Monday, May 13th.  New Jersey’s business community fears that the legislation, S-2281, would leave institutions which serve children vulnerable to unfounded accusations and offer little recourse.  The bill substitution can be found here. 

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Diegnan/Gill legislation revising shareholder class action lawsuits, A-3123, is signed into law

Legislation which revises the law concerning derivative proceedings and shareholder class action lawsuits was signed into law by Governor Christie.  It was part of a package of bills sponsored by Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex) and Senator Nia Gill (D-Essex)to advance economic-growth initiatives as recommended by the Corporate and Business Law Study Commission. 

A derivative action is a suit brought by a small or minority shareholder against the corporation’s management or directors.  A-3123 establishes a minimum value of shares one needs in order to file such a suit.  It would also amend the parameters under which such a suit may be filed, allowing corporations to avoid unnecessary litigation and costs. 

Assemblyman Diegnan said this legislation would make New Jersey “even more attractive for businesses looking to set up shop or expand their presence in the state,” calling it a “common-sense update to our corporate business law to show that New Jersey is truly ‘open for business’” [read statement].

This sentiment was echoed by Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester) a cosponsor:

"With fierce competition on all sides from our neighboring states, we must seize any advantage that will help make New Jersey an even more attractive place in which to do business,”  he said.   

NJLRA thanks Governor Christie for signing A-3123, as well as the sponsors and cosponsors for addressing this issue. 

Thursday, February 28, 2013

'Bad faith' bill is bad policy for New Jersey

S-2460, the covertly dubbed “Consumer Protection Act of 2012,” is a new lease on trial lawyers’ attempt to create a new cause of action for ‘bad faith’ (S-766/A-3434).

That bill, S-2460, is now scheduled for a hearing on Monday, March 4th, in the Senate Commerce Committee. 

Proponents argue that this bill will help policyholders who have been affected by Superstorm Sandy by codifying existing case law, protecting their right to sue insurance companies who fail to pay claims to which they are entitled.  In reality, it adds uncertainty and greater consumer costs to New Jersey's homeowners' insurance market:
  • Very few victims of Sandy will be helped.  Those who lacked flood coverage, had inadequate coverage limits, or could not afford their deductible could not file suit under this bill.
  • Policyholders would be able to recover damages in excess of the terms of their insurance contract.  In addition, they would be able to file for attorneys' fees, court costs, and prejudgment interest dating to the time the suit was filed.   
  • All New Jersey insurance customers, including businesses which purchase commercial insurance, will pay higher insurance premiums as a result.

And as we noted last month, many of us opt for lower premiums in exchange for higher deductibles.  Others quickly sign on the dotted line and hope we never meet the devil lurking in the details.  But when the worst happens, as many New Jerseyans experienced late last year, customers expect their insurer to cover their losses as defined in their coverage. 

New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Co. (NJM) CEO Bernie Flynn told a legislative committee last month that they expect payouts to reach $300 million.  State Farm has made a point of expediting their 30,000 Sandy-related claims.  On some occasions, however, an insurer may fail to live up to their end of the agreement and deny payment to a customer.  New Jersey consumers are able to file suit against their insurer in these instances.  But recently reintroduced legislation threatens to add more bureaucracy and litigation into an already stressed civil justice system. 

S-2460, the covertly dubbed “Consumer Protection Act of 2012,” is a new lease on trial lawyers’ attempt to create a new cause of action for ‘bad faith’ (S-766/A-3434).  It wouldn’t simply codify existing case law with respect to ‘bad faith;’ rather, a court would only need to find that an insurer acted ‘unreasonably’ in order to win a bad faith case, adding subjectivity and the potential for awards beyond one’s coverage. 

Acting Department of Banking and Insurance commissioner Kenneth Kobylowski noted that New Jersey’s strong homeowners’ insurance market had rates near the national average despite having property values among the highest in the country. 

"To have average premiums in the middle of the marketplace is just a testament to how stable, how competitive and how well-run our homeowners' market is," he told NJ BIZ

But if the cost of doing business increases for New Jersey’s insurance industry, we can all expect our premiums to rise. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bill granting civil immunity to ambulatory, rescue, and first aid squads advances

S-2165 received the unanimous approval of the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.  Under current law, only the officers and members of first aid, ambulance or rescue squads have civil immunity; not the entities themselves.  This bill clarifies that the entities, as well as the officers and members are not liable for any civil damages as the result of an act or the omission of an act committed while in training for or in the rendering of intermediate life support services in good faith. Its companion bill, A-3282, passed the Assembly Health and Senior Services committee with bipartisan support in January. 

S-2165 is sponsored by Senator Kip Bateman (R-Somerset).  Its assembly sponsors include Assemblymen Eric Peterson (R-Hunterdon), Anthony Bucco (R-Morris), and Herb Conaway (D-Burlington).  The measure awaits full legislative approval in each house. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Subway is the latest example of why NJ's Consumer Fraud Act needs fixing

We can tell you that New Jersey’s courtrooms are among the nation’s easiest in which to file a ridiculous lawsuit, but sometimes the weaknesses of the NJCFA speak for themselves. 

Two New Jersey residents contend that the size of their ‘footlong’ sub from Subway fell short of twelve inches.  And with a straight face, they were able to file a lawsuit under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act with ease.  Their lawyer is seeking class-action status on behalf of everyone who’s purchased one and meets the criteria. 

A recent NJ BIZ article (Advocates hope bill takes bite out of N.J. fraud law / Jared Kaltwasser, 2/4/13)) examines a possible remedy for the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, sponsored by Assemblyman Craig Coughlin.  A-3264 has been referred to the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Register now for NJLRA's Spring Membership Luncheon, honoring two of New Jersey's Outstanding Legislators

March 12 event
There is no cost to attend.  Advanced registration is required.

When: Tuesday, March 12th, 12:00 p.m.

Where: Trenton Country Club

  REGISTER HERE

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Assembly Health Committee to hear medical liability reform measure

The Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee is scheduled to hear A-1831 on Thursday, marking an important step toward addressing deep concerns about the cost of liability insurance within the medical community.   

Sponsored by Chairman Herb Conaway (D-Burlington), A-1831 would prevent insurance carriers from raising liability premiums based on a claim of medical practice, unless the physician is found liable in court, and would prohibit insurers from increasing liability premiums in certain charitable or emergency situations. 

This legislation would also provide civil immunity to healthcare professionals who volunteer their services in good faith.  Civil immunity would be available to volunteer healthcare professionals who do not have an active provider-patient at the time of the emergency.  As our population outpaces the number of physicians we need to adequately care for the health of New Jersey residents, volunteer healthcare professionals will become increasingly important.  By offering civil immunity to these volunteer medical personnel, A-1831 takes a step toward addressing our New Jersey’s public health needs. 

Practicing specialized medicine in New Jersey is comparatively difficult for recent medical school graduates.  In addition to their student loans, new doctors must bear New Jersey’s high cost of liability insurance premiums.  Specialties which carry some of the highest premiums, including obstetrics and gynecology, disproportionately impact New Jersey women.  It is no longer cost effective for many existing OBGYNs in New Jersey to deliver babies, and many have stopped doing so altogether.  It’s not just a matter of addressing a significant healthcare cost-driver; it’s also about ensuring that New Jersey residents – especially women – have access to medical care.   

The hearing will take place at 10 a.m. in committee room 16.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A-3282 Passes Assembly Health Committee with Bipartisan Support

A-3282 clarifies that first aid, ambulance or rescue squads, as entities, have immunity from civil damages in certain circumstances

While this may seem to be a routine legislative clarification, the catalyst case, Murray v. Plainfield Rescue Squad, was eye-opening. 

In August 2004, a young man was shot by his own brother.  Alive and able to speak, his parents immediately called 911.  The Plainfield Rescue Squad arrived by ambulance and fruitlessly performed CPR; some believe that if he had instead been immediately transported to the hospital, Odis Murray would have had a 20 – 30 percent chance of survival. 

The Murrays decided to file a wrongful death lawsuit – not against their other son, Akeem Murray, who intentionally fired the shot that killed Odis – but against the Plainfield Rescue Squad

A lower court found that the because the Squad provided “intermediate life support services in good faith,” they were protected from civil liability under N.J.S.A. 26:2K-29, also known as the Good Samaritan Act. 

The Supreme Court ultimately disagreed.  The spirit of the act was to protect volunteers acting in good faith from liability so as to not dissuade volunteer responders from helping in the first place.  While it specified who would be protected, it did not define ‘rescue squads’ clearly enough for the Court’s liking. 

“The Legislature chose to provide immunity to volunteer rescue squads and to rescue squads rendering advanced life support services,” wrote Justice Barry Albin in a unanimous decision.  “By the clear language of N.J.S.A. 26:2K-29, the Legislature chose not to provide immunity to rescue squads, as entities, rendering intermediate life support services.

“If the failure to provide immunity to such rescue squads was an oversight, any corrective measure must be taken by the Legislature.”

The Legislature took the first step toward clarifying the intent of the Act today.  Primary sponsors of A-3282 include Assemblymen Eric Peterson (R-Hunterdon), Anthony Bucco (R-Morris), and Chairman Herb Conaway (D-Burlington).  Its companion bill, S-2165, is sponsored by Senator Kip Bateman (R-Somerset) and has been referred to the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.   

Click here for Assemblyman Conaway's statement.  

Friday, January 04, 2013

A red-light camera lawsuit that will have you seeing red

It’s not exactly a refund. 

If you were one of the half-million motorists who received a ticket in the mail courtesy of American Traffic Solution’s red light cameras, take comfort: the $85 - $140 fine you paid may not be the last word.   

The timing of yellow lights wasn’t officially recertified until July 25th, prompting lawyers to argue that fines issued before that date in eighteen of New Jersey’s municipalities should not stand.  ATS avoided a trial by agreeing to a $4.2 million class action settlement. 

But don’t celebrate just yet.  You won’t be getting the full sticker price of your erroneous ticket returned.  No.  After attorney’s fees and administrative costs, you and other red-eyed motorists will receive $6.  And that’s assuming all of your paperwork is correct. 

Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth) has long argued that intersections with red light cameras pose a greater risk to public safety than those without the cameras.  Accidents have increased nearly 400 percent at some intersections in just the first year of installation. 

According to the Star-Ledger, a separate class-action suit is pending against Redflex Traffic Systems, which is the red light vendor for cameras in eight other municipalities. 

Good luck to those eligible for a $6 check.  I’m sure the legal maneuvering was worth every penny.

Monday, December 03, 2012

The "Facebook bill" will be heard in the Assembly today - urge legislators to read section 5 before voting!

A-2878, referred to as the “Facebook bill,” would prohibit employers from asking for certain social networking information from employees and prospective employees.  The bill’s intention to protect employees’ privacy is laudable; however, a provision in Section 5 of the legislation creates an unnecessary hardship for New Jersey’s business community and may place an additional strain on our court system.  This section would create a new opportunity for current, former, and prospective employees to sue New Jersey businesses. 

Under this provision, employers or businesses who seek to hire an employee to administer their company’s social media communications would risk a lawsuit if they ask a prospective employee about his or her social media experience.  An unqualified job applicant would be given the right to seek monetary compensation if social networking was raised even in casual context during the interview process or later as an employee.  New Jersey would be the only state in which an employee or prospective employee would have such leverage, contributing to a hostile business climate in which unemployment outpaces the national average.   Even if an employer is found to have committed no violation of this act, time and capital will be needed for a defense.  Small businesses would be hurt most by litigation, as it can take up to $70,000 to resolve even the most clearly meritless cases. 

As New Jersey seeks to rebuild after the events of Hurricane Sandy, it is critical that we do not impose unintended disadvantages on our state’s economic backbone.  California, Maryland and Illinois have taken steps to protect employees’ privacy without exposing their business community to new and expensive liability in addition to penalties.  Please urge legislators to consider amending or removing Section 5.   

Friday, October 26, 2012

Legislative Updates - "Facebook bill" advances, Statute of limitations bill stalls

The State Senate advanced legislation this week that would prohibit employers from asking employees and prospective employees about their social media usage.  While intended to protect workers’ privacy, NJLRA and other business advocates stress that the so-called Facebook bill creates a new provision for workers to sue their employers, and with it, great potential for abuse.  [Learn more about S-1915].

Legislation to amend New Jersey’s statute of limitations in certain civil cases was held from consideration by the full Senate.  NJLRA and other business advocates have voiced concerns about both S-1651 and S-2281.  [Learn more about NJLRA’s position].

Friday, October 05, 2012

Legislative Update - The "Facebook bill"

S-1915, which prohibits employers and prospective employers from requesting access to workers’ social networking accounts, was passed by the full Senate.  While NJLRA applauds the sponsors’ intent to protect employees’ privacy, the Senate did not amend Section 5 which would give current and prospective employees new grounds to sue businesses. 

NJLRA supported removing this clause.  Casual conversation over the mere existence of a social networking page with a subordinate, for instance, would become a thing of the past. Forgetting that could cost employers tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees – and it also gives the disgruntled ex-employee or the unqualified job applicant unprecedented leverage over their employer.   

Previous post.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Legislative Update

Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex) introduced legislation which would give judges more discretion in cases involving the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act. Under current law, the court is required to award threefold the damages sustained by any person in interest and attorneys’ fees, filing fees and reasonable costs if a violation occurs. This bill, A-3264, gives the court discretion in awarding damages. They would not be permitted to exceed three times the actual damages sustained by the consumer. The bill also provides that the consumer fraud act applies only to New Jersey residents and transactions that take place within the State. A-3264 has been referred to the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee. The full text can be found here, on the Legislature’s website.

Friday, September 21, 2012

NJ is Treacherous Ground for Physicians: A Panel Discussion

Ten years ago the Medical Society of New Jersey (MSNJ) worked hard to enact meaningful medical liability reform in New Jersey.  Since then, court decisions have gutted key statutes and insurance premiums have skyrocketed.  We are now on the brink of a severe doctor shortage as other states enact liability reform and attract new physicians. 

MSNJ will be hosting a panel discussion on Thursday, September 27th with leading legislative and legal experts to discuss what can be done to combat the unique issues facing New Jersey’s doctors and their impact on public health. 

To register for this free event, please click here to visit the Medical Society’s website

Thursday, September 13, 2012

NJLRA welcomes Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. to Annual Membership Luncheon

Kean_event_marcus
Executive Director Marcus Rayner greets Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean (R-Union) at NJLRA's annual Fall Membership Luncheon

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Since it's peak convention season, now is the perfect time to REGISTER to VOTE!



While we’re all embroiled in patriotism (or nausea, depending on your perspective), now is the time to keep the momentum going and turn your sentiments into action.  The deadline to register to vote is October 16th, not Election Day.  Click here and follow prompts to register.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Register for NJLRA’s Annual Fall Membership Luncheon!

With fall just around the corner, it’s time to register for NJLRA’s annual Fall Membership Luncheon!  This year’s speaker will be Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean, Jr.  It will take place on Thursday, September 13th at noon at the Trenton Country Club.

Time flies, so register today! 

 Click here to register online.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Protecting volunteers may expand healthcare in Trenton, NJ

As our nation continues to debate health insurance mandates and cost-drivers that left preventative medicine out of reach for many, volunteer doctors quietly set up shop in some of New Jersey’s most underserved communities, trying to alleviate public health burdens on a patient-by-patient basis. 

Trenton is one of these communities.  In a Trenton Times report earlier this week, City Health Officer James Brownlee explained that years of funding cuts forced its clinics to greatly reduce the services they could offer. 

But there may be light at the end of the tunnel.  And that light is federal “free clinic” status.

According to the Times, such a designation would provide “essential malpractice insurance for a new staff of volunteer doctors, nurses, and other professionals who have retired from local hospitals,” bringing with it an opportunity for clinics to begin expanding their outreach once again.   

Medical liability insurance is routinely cited by New Jersey’s medical community as a disincentive for doctors to practice in the Garden State.  Such premiums, particularly for OB-GYNs, are significantly higher than premiums in other states. 

New Jersey faces a doctor shortage by the end of the decade if we simply do nothing.  Physicians who volunteer a portion of their retirement to continue treating patients help close a gap that we have yet to fill – a gap that will only increase as the number of physicians per capita decreases. 

Some aren’t convinced that assuaging doctors’ concerns about medical liability insurance increases access to care.  But in some of Trenton’s most underserved neighborhoods, it’s clear that it may make a world of difference.    

Assemblyman Herb Conaway is the sponsor of A-2178, which would provide civil immunity for certain volunteer physicians, nonprofit clinics, and federally qualified health centers.  It was second-referenced to the Assembly Judiciary Committee after passing favorably from the Health and Senior Services Committee in May.  Chairman Peter Barnes has not indicated whether he will post it for a vote. 

The bill’s Senate counterpart, S-1165, has the bipartisan support of Senators Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) and Diane Allen (R-Burlington). 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Christie, Romney, and Legal Reform

Paul Ryan is Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential pick.  This means Governor Christie officially belongs to New Jersey for at least another 16 months. 

With movement on pension and education reform, legal reform and medical liability reform may rise on the Governor’s agenda.  The need for legal reform has grown more apparent in recent months as studies confirmed that New Jersey will face a shortage of physicians by the end of the decade.  The State Senate unanimously passed legislation authorizing DHSS to convene a summit to analyze the shortage’s implications for New Jersey residents; its Assembly counterpart, A-1828, awaits action by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee. 

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Have a happy, safe, and lawsuit-free 4th of July from NJLRA!

Red light cameras proponents say such cameras at intersections make our roads safer, deterring motorists from running them and causing serious accidents.  But many New Jersey motorists and taxpayers criticize them as being unfair for failing to take justifiable conditions into consideration, a fundraiser for cash-strapped government entities, a great way to get rear-ended by tailgaters, if not all of the above. 

Two South Jersey residents filed the first putative class-action lawsuit against Cherry Hill Township last month.  They say that yellow signals are too short at such intersections, in violation of regulations set by the Legislature in 2008, and a refund is issued to drivers.  The refunds would be administered by a court-supervised program.  It’s unclear how much (if anything) individual motorists would reclaim once attorneys’ fees and administrative costs are calculated. 

Read more in the New Jersey Law Journal.   

Thursday, June 21, 2012

“Ambulance-chaser” bills advance

On Monday, the Assembly Judiciary Committee advanced legislation to prevent accident reports from being made available to the general public for 90 days following an accident.  Such reports are often aggressively sought by trial lawyers, which prompted Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz to dub the legislation, A-801, the “ambulance chaser bill.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a similar measure on Thursday, which would bar solicitation for 30 days following an accident.  S-761 is sponsored by Senator Nicholas Scutari

According to a report by Michael Booth in the New Jersey Law Journal, constituents often expressed concern to the legislators after receiving pieces of mail from attorneys referencing their “upcoming court case.”   The current Assembly version of the bill would require the word “advertisement” to be included on such mailers, in capital letters.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Legislative Alert: Insurance Fraud, False Claims Legislation to be heard on Monday

A-944, which establishes and enhances certain insurance fraud measures, will be heard in the Assembly Financial Institutions Committee on Monday, June 18th
at 10 a.m. in Committee Room 15

NJLRA supports A-944

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A-2165, which would change the effective date of the New Jersey False Claims Act, will be heard in the Assembly Judiciary Committee on
Monday, June 18th
at 10 a.m. in Committee Room 12

NJLRA opposes A-2165
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Please contact Marcus Rayner for more information about either of the above.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Until further notice, the halls of justice will be closed

In the criminal court system, it’s often said that justice delayed is justice denied. 

But for the civil court system in Union County, justice is suspended. 

A political stalemate over judicial vacancies is contributing to a shortage of judges available to hear civil cases, according to a report in the Star-Ledger.  A nearly 40 percent vacancy rate among judges, a backlog of over 800 cases, and four recall justices on vacation beginning July 1st means that the Union County Courthouse will not hear any civil cases during the months of July and August, a spokesperson said.  Civil cases include everything from child custody disputes and divorces to the resource-draining “I-drove-drunk-and-hurt-myself-time-to-sue-the-bar” cases for which New Jersey has become infamous.  

New Jerseyans from all walks of life need access to our civil courts.  Union County taxpayers are no exception.  Once the political stalemates are resolved, the Legislature needs to get serious about keeping frivolous lawsuits of our civil courts, which take scarce time, money, and resources away from disputes which need judicial intervention.

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

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

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. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Co$t of bullying

Many of New Jersey’s school districts have maintained that New Jersey’s bipartisan anti-bullying law, while well-intentioned, is a costly unfunded mandate.  A state panel agreed, which prompted the law’s sponsors and Governor Christie to allocate $1 million to the state’s local school districts in order to help them pay for staffing and training. 

As the Gloucester County Times pointed out in an editorial earlier this month, $1 million spread over 612 school districts isn’t likely to quell the districts’ concerns regarding the law’s cost. 

And as NJLRA points out in a letter-to-the-editor, with so many bureaucratic nuisances, litigation is all but assured. 

“It ought to be possible to have an effective anti-bullying strategy in each of our schools without breaking anyone’s bank,” the GC Times wrote.

New Jersey needs a strong anti-bullying law. But with respect to this particular law, the bleeding has only begun.

Read NJLRA’s letter here

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Auto insurance reform worked. Why not legal reform? #legalreform @lougreenwald #nj

Ewing-20120410-00088There was a time when auto insurance premiums topped New Jerseyans’ list of complaints about life in the Garden State.  Today, a decade after comprehensive reform, it doesn’t crack the top ten. 

Noting the growth of NJLRA and our affiliates since our inception in 2007, Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald suggested legal reform could follow a similar course in New Jersey. 

New Jersey’s small businesses, particularly those located in Southern New Jersey, have experienced increased financial strain from rising liability insurance over the past few years.  Municipal governments are also feeling the effect of an overheated culture of litigation.   Irrespective of the merits or outcome, taxpayers foot the bill when a lawsuit is filed against local governments.  It’s not exactly the kind of investment one hopes for with his or her property tax bill. 

Click here for a list of active, bipartisan legislation which can improve New Jersey’s civil justice climate for taxpayers, businesses of all sizes, and the medical community and their patients. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

In case you missed it: NJLRA offers advice to NJ business owners

In an op-ed in the Times of Trenton this week, NJLRA discusses why it’s important to engage with local elected officials.  It is intended to be a guide for the state’s small business owners, but it can apply to everyone who’s ever been curious about who makes the rules by which we all need to abide. 

You can read it in The Times here, or on NJLRA’s website

Friday, March 16, 2012

Budget Break 2012. What’s a New Jersey Tort Reformer to do?

New Jersey’s annual “budget break” is the period between the end of March and June when Assembly and Senate Budget Committees meet to finalize the next fiscal year’s budget.  The emphasis on budgetary matters can seemingly push legal reform to the back burner, as the rest of the Legislature remains in recess and voting sessions are suspended. 

But as Lawsuit Reform Watch noted last year at this time, one of the most appealing aspects about legal reform is that it has the power to spur economic growth while being budget-neutral.  There are some things tort reformers can do:

Attend NJLRA’s Membership Luncheon, featuring Assembly Majority Leader Lou GreenwaldAssemblyman Greenwald recently assumed the title of Assembly Majority Leader in the Democratic Caucus.  What legal reform progress does he envision in the near future?  Come hear his thoughts on all things legal reform on Tuesday, April 10th, at noon.  You will be in the company of 60+ business leaders, association presidents, and NJLRA members at this event.  Paul Matey, Deputy Chief Counsel to Governor Christie, will also deliver remarks.  There is no cost to attend, but registration is required.  Click here to registerDirections to NJ CAR are available here

Take a look at your municipal budget.  How much money is your town or city spending on litigation costs?  It’s probably much higher than you think.  Could some endangered local government service be spared if its litigation tab weren’t so high?   Perhaps it’s worth mentioning at your next town council meeting, especially if a lot of cases are referred to expensive private firms.  You’ll be happy you spoke up when your next property tax bill is due.

Follow NJLRA.  In addition to subscribing to our blog feed, we are active on Facebook and Twitter.  And as rumor has it, a Pintrest board may be in the works.  In addition to legislative developments and the latest doctor shortage statistics, we’ll be sure to let you know which New Jersey bar will be the next sued by patrons for ‘making’ them drunk

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Touting tort reform before business

Read Andrew Kitchenman’s story in NJ BIZ about the prospect for lawsuit reform this year:

 

Marcus Rayner HeadshotAdvocates of lawsuit reform are touting the possibility of significant bills to reform the state's laws governing class action and consumer fraud cases, signaling what may become the biggest opening for changes since the 1990s.

A pair of bills introduced this session would limit the cost to post bonds for corporations that are appealing judgments, and would allow the subjects of class-action lawsuits to directly appeal the determination that a "class" exists.


The state's most prominent lawsuit reform advocate may be Marcus Rayner, executive director of the New Jersey Lawsuit Reform Alliance, which launched in 2007 to bolster lobbying on tort reform and related issues.

Rayner said the political climate is shaping up to be good for the bills.

"I think the business community has been impressed with this legislative leadership's interest with helping," along with that of Gov. Chris Christie, Rayner said.

Rayner said tort reforms in other states — including North Carolina, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Texas — increased pressure on New Jersey.

"A climate of excess litigation drives up the costs for everybody, from the business owner to the consumer," he said.

Read full story.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Governor’s budget address

Governor Christie’s budget address will take place at 2 p.m. today.  While lawsuit reform measures are typically devoid of budgetary line-items, changes that NJLRA seeks would add much-needed business investment to the state’s economy

You can listen the Governor’s budget address live on the Legislature’s homepage, linked here