A Busy Few Weeks for the Appellate Division

In the last several weeks, this blog has largely focused on Supreme Court decisions and grants of review. That was not meant to slight the Appellate Division, whose judges have made some important rulings as well. Here are summaries of some of the most significant published rulings of the Appellate Division during that period:

Sosa v. Massachusetts Bay Ins. Co., 458 N.J. Super. 639 (App. Div. 2019). In an opinion by Judge Ostrer that focused on the language and effect of a water damage exclusion in the subject homeowner’s insurance policy, the Appellate Division reversed a summary judgment for the defendant insurer, while affirming the denial of summary judgment to plaintiff.

Medford Tp. School Dist. v. Schneider Electric Buildings Americas, Inc., 459 N.J. Super. 1 (App. Div. 2019). Judge Rose wrote this opinion, which affirmed a Law Division decision enjoining and dismissing arbitration proceedings against plaintiff. Applying de novo review, the panel ruled that the arbitration clause, which stated that a dispute “may” be resolved by arbitration, made arbitration optional, not mandatory, in that the provision did not “evince a clear intent to waive the right to sue in court.”

In re Adoption of Amendments to N.J.A.C. 11:22-1.1, 459 N.J. Super. 32 (App. Div. 2019). Writing for the court, Judge Yannotti upheld the adoption by the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance of administrative rules implementing the Health Claims Authorization, Processing, and Payment Act, L. 2005, c. 352, codified in various sections of N.J.S.A. Titles 17, 17B, and 26. Among other thing, the panel found that the regulations were not ultra vires.

In re Renewal Application of Team Academy Charter School, 459 N.J. Super. 111 (App. Div. 2019). This matter involved seven consolidated appeals, all relating to challenges by the Education Law Center (“ELC”) to the Commissioner of Education’s approval of increases in enrollment and expansion of physical plants of Newark charter schools. Judge Alvarez, writing for the panel, rejected the charter schools’ argument that ELC lacked standing, but upheld the Commissioner’s actions on the merits.

Luskey v. Carteret Bd. of Educ., 459 N.J. Super. 150 (App. Div. 2019). This was another case involving arbitration. Judge Reisner wrote the panel’s opinion, which held that “a dispute over the termination of a tenured public school janitor is subject to arbitration under the jurisdiction of the Commissioner of Education and not the Public Employment Relations Commission, even if a collective negotiations agreement dictated the length of service required to attain tenure.”

Clarksboro, LLC v. Kronenberg, 459 N.J. Super. 217 (App. Div. 2019). This was a tax foreclosure case, in which a tax lien investment fund that had acquired property by foreclosing on a tax sale certificate, itself failed to pay property taxes. Without granting oral argument or giving a valid reason for denying it, the Chancery Division entered final judgment even though the fund had opposed that relief and had requested argument. Judge Koblitz, writing for the Appellate Division, ruled that the denial of oral argument was improper, in violation of the mandate of Rule 1:6-2 requiring argument when requested. The panel reversed the final judgment.