Sunday, April 9, 2017
N.E., AS LEGAL GUARDIAN FOR INFANT J.V. VS. STATE OF NEW JERSEY, ET AL. A-3717-13T2
N.E., AS LEGAL GUARDIAN FOR INFANT J.V. VS. STATE OF NEW JERSEY, ET AL.
Plaintiff is the legal guardian of a child who was severely and permanently injured by the criminal acts of his biological father. Plaintiff filed a civil action against the Division and a caseworker, and his supervisor claiming it was vicariously liable for the negligent manner these employees investigated plaintiff's allegations of child abuse and parental unfitness. The trial court rejected the Division’s argument that its employees are entitled to immunity from civil liability under the Tort Claims Act. A jury found the Division 100 percent liable and awarded plaintiff a total of $165,972,503.
In this appeal, this court is required to determine whether the State of New Jersey can be held vicariously liable based on a Division caseworker’s good faith execution of this State’s child protection laws. This court holds the Division caseworkers were entitled to the qualified immunity afforded to public employees who act in good faith in the enforcement or execution of any law under N.J.S.A. 59:3-3 of the Tort Claims Act. An ordinary negligence standard is an insufficient basis to impose civil liability on a public employee involved in the execution of the law. For these reasons, this court reverses the jury's verdict and vacates the final judgment entered against defendants.