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LEEMON v. SOUTH JERSEY PORT COMMN.

October 18, 1956

Elmer F. LEEMON, Plaintiff,
v.
SOUTH JERSEY PORT COMMISSION, Camden Marine Terminals, and South Jersey Port District, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MADDEN

This is a suit for personal injuries allegedly sustained, when, as a longshoreman, plaintiff was unloading the cargo from the barge 'Winyah' which was moored at the pier of the defendants. The complaint alleges that while working on the barge while it was so moored the defendants, through their agents, servants and employees, without notice to him moved the barge causing him to fall thirty feet into the hold of the barge severely injuring him, for which he seeks damages.

Upon service of the complaint, defendants moved to dismiss upon two grounds, as follows:

 (a) That the defendants are State Agencies and are immune from suit as being a part of the sovereign State.

 (b) That the Camden Marine Terminals is not an entity subject to suit and the service of process is insufficient.

 At the final argument of the matter, plaintiff urged two main points in answer to defendants' motion to dismiss; firstly, that under the statute creating the Port Commission and Port District the legislature gave permission to sue and be sued, that inasmuch as the Commission, in the operation of the pier, was engaged in a proprietary function they are responsible in tort; secondly, that the suit being a maritime action the right of recovery in the plaintiff cannot be prevented by local State law but is controlled by general maritime law.

 The statute establishing the Port District and the Port Commission is found at 12 N.J.Statutes Annotated, Section 11 et seq., and, among other things, provides:

 12:11-2. 'The district is hereby declared to be a public corporation and body politic and shall have power to: * * *

 'b. Sue and be sued'.

 Section 3 of the Act (12:11-3) provides for the Commission to run the District, the number of commissioners, their terms, the manner of their appointment, etc.

 It is apparent, from a reading of the statute, that the Camden Marine Terminals is a name given to a pier run by the Commission in the District, is not a legal entity and not subject to process, consequently, this name will be stricken from the cause.

 In reference to the motion that 'The defendants are State Agencies and are immune from suit as being a part of the sovereign State,' the Court can find nowhere in the act establishing the Commission, supra, any limitation on the manner or method of suit or exemption of liability for its torts. At best, on this question, the Commission would seem to be in the same legal position or classification as a municipality, likewise creatures of the legislature of New Jersey. It is so well established in this State that municipalities are subject to the jurisdiction of the courts as to be almost elemental. Their liability in tort, after jurisdiction has been established, is a different thing entirely. Besides this, the Act, supra, gives specific authority not only to the Commission to sue but, likewise, annunciates the right in the public as to the Commission 'to be sued.'

 As to the question of alleged liability under the pleadings, we must view the matter in the face of the allegation in the amended complaint that:

 'Defendant South Jersey Port District is a public corporation created and established by the legislature of the State of New Jersey in 1926, and engaged in the operation of certain piers as a proprietary function as ...


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