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Williams v. National Car Rental System Inc.

Decided: March 31, 1988.

RICHARD E. WILLIAMS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NATIONAL CAR RENTAL SYSTEM, INC., AND THE PORT AUTHORITY OF NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANTS



Villanueva, J.s.c.

VILLANUEVA

This is an action for malicious prosecution, breach of contract, wrongful interference with economic relationships and wrongful discharge against National Car Rental System, Inc. ("National") and for false arrest and false imprisonment against The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey ("Port Authority").

The issue involved is whether the New Jersey Tort Claims Act, N.J.S.A. 59:1-1 et seq. ("the act"), applies to the Port Authority.

The court holds that while the Port Authority, arguably, could come within the Tort Claim Act's definition of a "Public entity," the act does not apply to the Port Authority, a bi-state agency that derives its powers, including the power to sue and be sued, from joint legislative action approved by the Congress of the United States.

Immediately prior to trial, the Port Authority moved to dismiss plaintiff's complaint against it. This opinion supplements the court's oral opinion which granted the motion.

Plaintiff's complaint was filed with the Clerk of the Superior Court on November 14, 1985. His notice of claim, dated November 12, 1985, was received by the Port Authority on November 19, 1985.

Plaintiff urges that the Tort Claims Act does not apply to the Port Authority. The Port Authority avers that the act does apply.

Initially, our courts were confronted with a question as to whether the act was intended to apply to bi-state authorities empowered to sue and be sued. See, e.g., Yancoskie v. Delaware River Port Authority, 155 N.J. Super. 1 (App.Div.1977), aff'd on other grounds 78 N.J. 321 (1978). The issue ultimately was resolved by our Supreme Court in Bell v. Bell, 83 N.J. 417 (1980), holding that, since the Delaware River Port Authority had been established as a bi-state agency with the approval of Congress and with the power to sue and be sued, the "sue and be sued" clause should be construed following the broad federal interpretation as constituting a waiver of immunity which cannot be modified unilaterally by the Tort Claims Act.*fn1

As defined by the act, "'Public entity' includes the State, and any county, municipality, district, public authority, public agency, and any other political subdivision or public body in the State." N.J.S.A. 59:1-3.

The act further declares:

"State" shall mean the State and any office, department, division, bureau, board, commission or agency of the State, but shall not include any such entity which is statutorily authorized to sue and be sued. "State" also means the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, but only with respect to employees, property and activities within the State of New Jersey. [ Ibid. ]

The Port Authority contends that it is an entirely different type of agency from the Delaware River Port Authority, because it was created in a different manner. The court finds this argument irrelevant and without merit. Even though the Delaware River Port Authority resulted from joint ...


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