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Potente v. County of Hudson

June 3, 2005

JOSEPH POTENTE, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
COUNTY OF HUDSON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT, AND CARMEN MESSANO, AS PROSECUTOR OF HUDSON COUNTY AND ROBERT B. MARTIN, AS CHIEF OF INVESTIGATIONS OF THE HUDSON COUNTY PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE, DEFENDANTS.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, L-2471-01.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: A. A. RODRÍGUEZ, P.J.A.D.

APPROVED FOR PUBLICATION

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted September 13, 2004

Before Judges A. A. Rodríguez, Cuff and Weissbard.

One of the issues presented in this appeal is whether a successful claimant is entitled to prejudgment interest, as authorized by Rule 4:42-11(b), in an action pursuant to the Law Against Discrimination (LAD)*fn1 against a public entity employer. We hold that such claimant is entitled to prejudgment interest.

I.

Plaintiff Joseph Potente had been a long-term employee of the County of Hudson when his employment was terminated on December 7, 1994. He had served as an investigator in the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office since 1982. In December 1993, Potente was involved in a work-related auto accident, resulting in injuries to his shoulder. He claimed and received workers' compensation benefits. The County designated Teofilo A. Dauhajre, M.D., as Potente's treating physician pursuant to N.J.S.A. 34:15-15. Potente's medical treatment was monitored by the County's workers' compensation administrator, Scibal Insurance Group.

In May 1994, Potente returned to work part-time, performing light office work for six hours per day and spending two hours per day in physical therapy. However, by September 1994, his shoulder pain had worsened and required surgery. Potente did not re-apply for workers' compensation benefits at that time. Instead, he utilized vacation, sick and compensatory time in order to receive pay while out of work.

Eventually, Potente exhausted these options and requested a leave of absence. Lieutenant James Hoppes, Potente's direct supervisor, denied the request. Hoppes wrote as follows:

With respect to this request I have been instructed to inform you that a more detailed account of your injuries and subsequent treatment will be needed. To this end, I am instructing you to reply in writing whether the injuries that predicated the surgery performed on September 20, 1994 and the subsequent therapy were a direct result of the motor vehicle accident you were involved in on December 28, 1993 or whether these injuries were sustained as a result of other actions. Your reply to this directive should be . . . . submitted no later than Monday November 28, 1994 by the end of the business day.

Potente sent the following reply:

I do not possess the requisite medical expertise to causally relate my shoulder injury to my December 28, 1993 motor vehicle accident. For further clarification of this issue, I suggest you contact my treating doctor: Dr. Teofilo A. Dauhajre, [address and telephone].

The only information I can give you is that prior to my December 28, 1993 accident, I never had any physical problems with my right shoulder. It was not until immediately after this accident that I first began to experience any pain or problems with my right shoulder.

Finally, from the date of the accident until this date, I did not suffer any other trauma ...


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