The Second Half of April

In the second half of April, the Supreme Court issued one published opinion and the Appellate Division delivered four such rulings. Here are summaries:

C.R. v. M.T., ___ N.J. ___ (2024). This was the second time that this case came before the Supreme Court. The previous decision was summarized here. This time, in an opinion by Justice Wainer Apter, the Court held that the plain language of the Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-16(a)(2) (“SASPA”), creates a standard for a final protective order that is “permissive and easily satisfied.” Affirming the Family Part and the Appellate Division, the Court agreed that plaintiff had established a “possibility of future risk” to her “safety or well-being” sufficient to justify a final protective order. Justice Fasciale filed a concurring opinion that asserted that “final protection under SASPA is not dependent on speculation that there exists a ‘possibility of future risk to the safety or well-being of the alleged victim.’”

Wiggins v. Hackensack Meridian Health, ___ N.J. Super. ___ (App. Div. 2024). This opinion by Judge Currier addressed “whether N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-41(a) under the New Jersey Medical Care Access and Responsibility and Patients First Act (Act), N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-37 to -42, requires plaintiffs to serve an affidavit of merit (AOM) from a physician board certified in both specialties if defendant physician is board certified in two specialties, and the treatment claimed to be negligent involves both specialties.” The case came to the Appellate Division on leave to appeal after the Law Division denied a defense motion to dismiss, ruling that plaintiffs need only have provided an AOM from a physician specializing in either of defendant’s specialties. The Appellate Division disagreed and held, based on “the kind-for-kind, credential equivalency requirement articulated in N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-41(a) and the legislative purpose of the Act,” that AOMs in both specialties were required. Key to the decisions of both the Law and Appellate Divisions was the meaning and effect of the ruling in Buck v. Henry, 207 N.J. 377 (2011).

M.R. v. New Jersey Dep’t of Corrections, ___ N.J. Super. ___ (App. Div. 2024). This was a Compassionate Release Act case in which Judge Gummer wrote the panel’s opinion. After being denied compassionate release, plaintiff appealed, objecting that he had not been physically examined by a doctor. But neither the statute, regulations, or legislative history contained any requirement for a physical examination. Instead, only a “medical diagnosis,” based on “a medical-record examination,” was called for. Therefore, the panel affirmed the denial of compassionate release.

Borough of Englewood Cliffs v. Trautner, ___ N.J. Super. ___ (App. Div. 2024). The issue in this case was “whether a public entity is immune from sanctions for filing a frivolous lawsuit in accordance with the Frivolous Litigation Statute (FLS), N.J.S.A. 2A:15-59.1, and Rule 1:4-8,” as Chief Judge Sumners summarized it. Affirming the Law Division, the Appellate Division held that the Borough was not immune from frivolous litigation sanctions. Though “a trial court should only award sanctions for frivolous litigation in exceptional cases[, citation, t]his is one such case.” The panel affirmed the sanctions imposed.

In re the Competitive Solar Incentive (“CSI”) Program, ___ N.J. Super. ___ (App. Div. 2024). This opinion by Judge Mawla involved an attack on an action of the Board of Public Utlities (“BPU”) in establishing criteria for the siting of solar projects on agricultural lands covered by the Solar Act of 2021, N.J.S.A. 48:3-114 to -120. Appellant Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Coalition claimed that the BPU had misread plain statutory language and misapplied the legislative history of the Solar Act. The panel disagreed and upheld the BPU’s requirements.