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Cusseaux v. Pickett

Decided: August 4, 1994.

JEAN MARIE CUSSEAUX, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WILSON PICKETT, JR., DEFENDANTS.



Napolitano, J.s.c.

Napolitano

NAPOLITANO, J.S.C.

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the court on defendant's motion to dismiss the first count of plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a cause of action pursuant to R. 4:6-2(e). The defendant argues that the "battered-woman's syndrome" is not recognized as an affirmative cause of action by the courts of this State. This court denies the motion to dismiss and holds that the "battered-woman's syndrome" is now a cognizable cause of action under the laws of New Jersey.

II. FACTS

Plaintiff, Jean Marie Cusseaux, lived with the defendant, Wilson Pickett, Jr., for a period of about ten years, from 1982 to 1992. Plaintiff alleges that, during this time period, defendant severely mistreated her, jeopardized her health and well-being, and caused her physical injuries on numerous occasions. Plaintiff further alleges that defendant's actions were part of a continuous course of conduct and constituted a pattern of violent behavior, frequently associated with his being intoxicated. Plaintiff alleges that the acts of abuse and violence are too numerous to detail with specificity; however, on a number of occasions, she was required to seek medical attention.*fn1 As a result of the defendant's behavior, plaintiff alleges that she was caused to suffer the condition of the battered woman's syndrome, which includes serious personal and emotional injuries that will require medical and other attention. On April 15, 1992, defendant's final assault allegedly caused plaintiff finally to end the relationship.

III. LAW

A. Standard

Pursuant to R. 4:5-2,

a pleading which sets forth a claim for relief, whether an original claim, counterclaim, cross-claim or third-party claim, shall contain a statement of the facts on which the claim is based, showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, and a demand for judgment for the relief to which he deems himself entitled.

The pleading is intended to apprise fairly the adverse party of the claims and issues raised. Spring Motors Distributors, Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 191 N.J. Super. 22, 29-30, 465 A.2d 530 (App. Div. 1983) aff'd in part and rev'd in part on other grounds, 98 N.J. 555 (1985); Jardine Estates v. Koppel, 24 N.J. 536, 133 A.2d 1 (1957). The complaint must do more than give notice of a claim, it must state the essentials of a cause of action. Schantz v. Rachlin, 101 N.J. Super. 334, 244 A.2d 328 (Ch. Div. 1968). Implicit in these requirements is the necessity that there be a cognizable cause of action upon which relief can be granted.

R. 4:6-2(e) permits a party to make a motion to dismiss where there is no such cognizable claim.

Every defense, legal or equitable, in law or in fact, to a claim for relief in any complaint, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party complaint shall be asserted in the answer thereto, except that the following defenses may at the option of the pleader be made by motion, with briefs: (a) lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter, (b) lack of jurisdiction over the person, (c) insufficiency of process, (d) insufficiency of service of process, (e) failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, (f) failure to join a party without whom the action cannot proceed, as provided by R. 4:28-1. (emphasis added).

However, the New Jersey Supreme Court has expressly held that trial courts must accord any plaintiff's complaint a "meticulous" and "indulgent" examination. Printing Mart v. Sharp Electronics, 116 N.J. 739, 771, 563 A.2d 31 (1989). In Printing Mart, the Supreme Court held that a reviewing court must

[search] the complaint in depth and with liberality [] ascertain whether the fundament of a cause of action may be gleaned even from an obscure statement of a claim, ...


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