New Jersey Tort Claims Act

The New Jersey Tort Claims Act found at N.J.S.A59:2-2, requires an individual with a potential claim against a public entity or their employees to file such a claim within 90-days of the alleged incident.

This statute applies to any claim for any injury caused by an “action or omission of the public entity or their employees.” If a claim is not made within 90 days, the public entity will enjoy immunity pertaining to any alleged injury claim.

In other words, failure to provide a Tort Claims Notice within the 90-day period, and failure to provide detailed information in that notice, can result in the absolute barring of recovery. By filing a Tort Claims Notice a claimant is providing notice to the public entity of their claim and allowing the public entity time to investigate and draft an adequate response. A Tort Claims Notice should include a general description of the injury, damage, or loss as a result of the occurrence for which plaintiff seeks relief. 

Although the Tort Claims Act was intended to be a middle ground for a claimant and a defendant, it often imposes a burden on an injured Plaintiff to act quickly in prosecuting their claims. This burden is particularly evident in instances where a claimant may not be able to submit their claim within the 90-days allotted because of physical or mental incapacity or disability.

In cases like these, an exception is made for one (1) year if the claimant has demonstrated, pursuant to N.J.S.A59:8-9, that there were “extraordinary circumstances” which restricted their ability to submit their claim. 

Alexandra Loprete, an associate with the firm, recently argued and won an appeal on a Plaintiff’s right to file a late notice of claim within one (1) year due to extraordinary circumstances. Ms. Loprete filed a Tort Claims Notice in a medical malpractice case against University Hospital located in Newark, New Jersey.

The Tort Claims Notice alleged that University Hospital and its employees failed to timely diagnose the Plaintiff’s post-partum infection. As a result, she developed a life-threatening intrauterine infection which required multiple surgeries and a long and complicated hospital course. 

Ms. Loprete argued that Plaintiff’s life-threatening medical condition during the 90-day period to file a Tort Claims Notice rendered her physically incapacitated and amounted to exceptional and extraordinary circumstances. Based on the totality of the medical challenges Plaintiff faced during the 90-day period, Ms. Loprete sought a one (1) year extension to file the claim pursuant to N.J.S.A59:8-9. 

Ms. Loprete’s efforts proved successful when the Appellate Division issued their opinion and found there existed “a perfect storm of factors totaling extraordinary circumstances within the meaning of N.J.S.A59:8-9.” 

The attorneys at O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble made the decision to pursue this case through the appellate level in order to obtain a just result and are very pleased that one was delivered by the Appellate Division. Victims of medical malpractice are rarely in the physical or mental condition to make a claim against a public entity within 90 days. This case is the perfect example.

Speak to Our New Jersey Medical Malpractice Lawyers Today

It is often difficult to know if your potential claim involves a public entity. Many hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities may be public entities and require a claimant file a Tort Claims Notice within 90 days, or face having their claim forever barred. Contact the attorneys at O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble if you or a loved one has suffered grave or permanent injury as a result of negligent care and you believe a public entity may be involved. 

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