Injury Lawyers: Municipal Claims

INJURY LAWYERS SUE CITY OF PLAINFIELD OVER FATAL STABBING

Injury lawyers  often take cases involving tragic situations.  Here is one.

In 2010 Bruce and   Famous Rivera attended the annual dance of the Friends of Plainfield Youth Basketball (the Friends).  The dance was held at a gymnasium owned by the Black United Fund.

Lenny” Cathcart was the coordinator of Plainfield’s seasonal basketball league. The league was operated by the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation (the Department). Cathcart also had a full-time job in private industry. He organized the Friends as a non-profit to raise funds for the basketball program. Cathcart claimed the city Department had no involvement with events operated by the Friends.  He applied for a municipal permit for the dance in his own name, on behalf of the Friends. No police officers were hired to provide security for the dance, although some were in attendance. It was common knowledge that patrons brought alcohol. Cathcart claimed that he never experienced any problems at the dance in the past.

As the 2010 dance came to an end, an argument broke out. Tragically, it resulted in the stabbing death of Bruce Rivera, and the stabbing of Famous Rivera.

Famous Rivera, and Bruce Rivera’s estate, hired injury lawyers and sued Plainfield, among others. The trial judge dismissed their claim against the city.  In sum, the judge concluded that the evidence did not support the claim of the injury lawyers that Plainfield really sponsored the dance. The judge further determined that Plainfield was immune from suit under the New Jersey Tort Claims Act. (Even if it was the sponsor.)

Victims Appeal Initial Decision.

The Rivera’s injury lawyers appealed. But the appeals court similarly denied the claim the injury lawyers brought against Plainfield.

The appeals judges noted that a city may sometimes be responsible for dangerous conditions that exist on its property. But here, the dance took place on private property.

The judges also conceded that a city can be responsible “for injury … caused by an act or omission of a public employee within the scope of his employment.” However, it was undisputed that Cathcart applied for the permit in his own name, for the Friends. The judges ruled that Plainfield did not control his activities in organizing or operating the dance.

Further, under the Tort Claim Act, a city “is not liable for an injury caused by the issuance . . . [of] any permit….” The court decided that this immunity applies to all phases of the permit function, and to all acts, discretionary or not.

The appeals court also rejected the argument of the injury lawyers that immunity did not apply due to the lack of security. The court observed that the city had immunity from responsibility for any injury caused by its failing to properly enforce the permit.

In short, the Riveras will not be able to obtain compensation from the city. However, they may yet be able to recover compensation from some of the other parties involved.

Moral of the Story.

If you are ever the victim of an injury caused by a city or other governmental agency, or their employees, you should contact an experienced injury attorney immediately. You may have as little as 90 days to take legal action, or you may lose any claim that you have. Injury lawyers can often find valid grounds to sue a municipality, despite the immunities of the Tort Claims Act.

The appeals decision in the Plainfield case is found here.

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