NJ Supreme Court Releases Opinion Reviewing Punitive Damage Awards Against Public Entities
This week, the New Jersey Supreme Court released its opinion in Shelley Pritchett v. State of New Jersey, a case which the League participated in as Amicus. In this matter the Court was tasked with determining whether a punitive damages award against a public entity was reasonable and proportional.
The Court maintained prior case law which says, despite their unique status and the use of public funds to payout the awards public entities are subject to punitive damages for claims made under the Law Against Discrimination. The Court did however, reiterate in the Pritchett ruling that trial courts must use a “heightened scrutiny” when reviewing a jury’s award of punitive damages against a public entity. While it is unclear what heightened scrutiny of a punitive damage award would include, it is clear that the Court envisions a different review of such awards when a public entity is involved.
The League would like to thank Robert F. Renaud, Esq. of the Renaud DeApplonion law firm for representing the League in this matter. We encourage you to review this decision with you municipal attorney for additional information.
Contact: Frank Marshall, Esq., Associate General Counsel, FMarshall@njlm.org or 609-695-3481, ext. 137.