Claim of NJ Shooting Witness Barred By The Torts Claims Act

In the recent New Jersey unreported decision of Carl Mann, Jr. v. Officer Chad Walder, et al., the court considered whether a plaintiff’s claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress overcame the threshold criteria for maintaining an action under the Torts Claims Act.  This Act requires that the plaintiff show that he sustained a permanent injury and incurred medical expenses in excess of $3,600 in order to maintain his action.

Mann was 16 years old when he witnessed the fatal shooting of his uncle by the police.  Mann suffered no physical injuries, but claimed to have suffered extreme emotional damage as a result of the occurrence.  His expenses for his medical care totaled $187.  Mann eventually sued the officers to recover for his emotional injuries and ultimately offered an expert to support his claim.  While Mann’s expert opined that he suffered from emotional issues that affected his daily life, the expert’s report noted that Mann had graduated from high school, slept well at night without nightmares and had no difficulty performing his job functions.  The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendants based on Mann’s failure to meet the threshold requirements for maintaining suit under the Torts Claims Act.

On appeal, Mann argued that he met the thresholds set forth in the Torts Claims Act.  However, the Appellate Court found that Mann’s subjective complaints of emotional distress did not constitute a permanent injury.  The court also disagreed with Mann’s argument that the value of the medical services he received was reduced by the fact that he was a Medicaid recipient.  Under the legislative mandate, the cost, rather than the value, of the treatment must be measured.  Ultimately, the Appellate Court upheld dismissal of Mann’s complaint.

Special thanks to Heather Aquino for her contributions to this post.  For more information, please contact Nicole Y. Brown at nbrown@wcmlaw.com.