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Dorn v. Transport of New Jersey

Decided: November 13, 1984.

DORIS DORN, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
TRANSPORT OF NEW JERSEY, A CORPORATION, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT, AND JOHN DOE (FICTITIOUS), DEFENDANT



On appeal from the Superior Court, Law Division, Union County.

Matthews, Furman and Cohen.

Per Curiam

On September 11, 1980, plaintiff was a passenger on a bus operated by Transport of New Jersey (TNJ). Apparently, a car cut in front of the bus in order to turn right into a parking lot. Plaintiff was seated on a bench seat, with her back to the left side of the bus, in the third place from the driver. There was no one seated between the driver and plaintiff, Dorn. When the bus stopped short, she was thrown forward into the back of the driver's chair, striking her face on the left side.

On October 16, 1980 the entire stock of defendant, TNJ, was purchased by the New Jersey Transit Corp. (NJT Corp.) pursuant to N.J.S.A. 27:25-13. Plaintiff filed her Complaint on December 31, 1981, and served it on the defendant on March 4, 1982. Defendant's Answer was filed on April 20, 1982.

Before trial began, the trial judge heard defendant's motion, to apply the provisions of the New Jersey Tort Claims Act (N.J.S.A. 59:1-1 et seq.) to the litigation. The judge denied defendant's motion, and commenced trial before a jury. The jury's verdict, after three days of trial, awarded a lump sum of $25,000 to plaintiff. Thereupon, the judge awarded $4,733.33 prejudgment interest, to which defendant again objected as barred by N.J.S.A. 59:9-2. Interest was calculated from December 31, 1981 to July 28, 1983.

The threshold principle in this appeal is whether TNJ, an entity whose sole stockholder is the NJT Corp., is a "public entity" as defined in N.J.S.A. 59:1-3.

N.J.S.A. 59:1-3 of the New Jersey Tort Claims Act, defines a public entity as:

the State and any county, municipality, district, public authority, public agency, and any other political subdivision or public body in the State.

The legislative comment further provides:

The definition of "Public Entity" provided in this section is intended to be inclusive and to apply uniformly throughout the State of New Jersey to all entities exercising governmental functions.

[Emphasis added, Comment, N.J.S.A. 59:1-3]

The NJT Corp. was created by the Legislature in the New Jersey Public Transportation Act of ...


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