The issue is whether a plaintiff has substantially complied with the notice provisions of the Tort Claims Act when he failed to answer most of the questions on the City's personalized notice of claim form.
The court finds that, although the plaintiff filed a notice of claim indicating an accident and the claimed municipal wrongdoing, his failure to provide the names of witnesses, physicians, property damage, wage or income loss and nature and extent of the injury, coupled with his refusal to return to the City an authorization for it to obtain medical records, did not constitute substantial compliance with the notice provisions of the Tort Claims Act.
This is a motion for summary judgment by the defendant, City of Newark to dismiss plaintiff's complaint for failure to comply with the notice provisions of the Tort Claims Act. Plaintiff was allegedly injured in a motor vehicle accident on March 6, 1983, when the car owned and operated by the plaintiff collided with a car driven by defendant, Paulina Acevedo, which was owned by Paulina Rodriguez. Plaintiff alleges that the traffic light at the intersection was malfunctioning at the time of the accident.
Plaintiff filed a notice of claim with the City on March 25, 1983, on the City's personalized notice of claim form. The only questions that the plaintiff answered were those required by N.J.S.A. 59:8-4. His description of the accident was "Claimant driving on Summer Avenue South entered the intersection at
Montclair Avenue when defendant went into intersection traveling West on Montclair Avenue causing accident. Lights were malfunctioning at the time of the accident." The other questions and answers (underlined) were as follows:
6. Furnish the name and address of City of Newark employee causing bodily injury or property damage: Unknown.
7. State the names and addresses of all witnesses known to you: To be determined through investigation.
8. If claim involves bodily injury, attach hereto full and complete copies of all reports of physicians or dentists, together with their final bills for services rendered: To be provided.
9. If claim involves property damage, attach hereto full and complete copies of all bills for services rendered in repairing said property, or sales receipts in case of replacement: To be provided.
10. If your claim for bodily injury required hospitalization, attach hereto full and complete copies of all hospital records and charges incurred: N/A
11. If you have engaged any expert witnesses in support of your claim, attach hereto full and complete copies of all reports of said experts: To be provided.
12. If you claim loss of wages or income, state the amount thereof, dates, and name and address of your employer. If self-employed, and you claim loss of income, state the amount thereof, dates, and the name and address of the person for whom you would have rendered services: N/A
13. If you claim permanent loss of function of any body member, identify same, the nature and extent of said loss, and the name and address of the physician who will so state: To be provided.
Shortly after the City received the notice of claim, it sent a letter dated April 7, 1983 to plaintiff's attorney, which stated: "We enclose herewith an authorization and a request for hospital and medical records which we have completed and request that you have your client sign. Please return the signed forms to this office in the enclosed, stamped, self-addressed envelope."
Plaintiff failed to respond to the request and to this day the City has received no information whatsoever from the plaintiff about his medical condition or treatment.
This complaint, which seeks damages for personal injuries, states that the plaintiff "suffered severe and permanent injury, permanent loss of bodily function . . . and has been and will in the future be compelled to remain away from his usual employment." However, it was not until the oral argument on November
30, 1984 that the City learned that the plaintiff was first treated by a doctor on March 9, 1983 and claimed permanent disability for a soft-tissue injury to his back and neck.
No action shall be brought against a public entity under this act unless a claim upon which it is based shall have been presented in accordance with ...