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Ramsey v. Delaware River and Bay Authority

December 14, 2006

LORRAINE RAMSEY AND HARRIS E. RAMSEY, HER HUSBAND, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
DELAWARE RIVER AND BAY AUTHORITY, CAPE MAY LEWES FERRY, AND RICHARD CASH, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Cape May County, Docket No. CPM-L-175-05.

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

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

APPROVED FOR PUBLICATION

Argued October 24, 2006

Before Judges Kestin, Weissbard and Payne.

On August 8, 2003, plaintiff Lorraine Ramsey was injured when she fell on board the M/V Cape Henlopen, a ferry traveling between Cape May, New Jersey and Lewes, Delaware. The ferry was owned and operated by defendant Cape May-Lewes Ferry (Ferry), a division of defendant Delaware River and Bay Authority (DRBA), a bi-state agency of Delaware and New Jersey established pursuant to a legislative compact, N.J.S.A. 32:11E-1 (the Compact). Her suit, filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey almost two years after the accident, was dismissed by the trial court as barred by the one-year limitation period and a forum selection provision, both set forth on the reverse side of her ticket. We reverse, concluding that the reduced suit limitation period and the Delaware venue provision were not approved by the DRBA commissioners, as required by the Compact.

On April 13, 2005, plaintiff, and her husband per quod,*fn1 filed suit in the Law Division naming as defendants the DRBA, the Ferry, and Richard Cash, a ferry employee. The details of plaintiff's claim are irrelevant to the issues before us. It suffices to say that she alleged negligence on the part of the Ferry and DRBA, acting through Cash, in directing her to park her vehicle in an unsafe place, exposing her to harm if she attempted to exit the vehicle during the trip.

In response to the suit, defendants' answer asserted that pursuant to "the passenger ticket contract" the action had to be filed within one year of the injury and that any suit had to be filed in Delaware. Defendants thereafter moved for summary judgment. Following oral argument, a written decision was issued on September 9, 2005, granting the motion and dismissing the complaint. On September 20, plaintiff moved for reconsideration, which was denied by order of October 5, 2005, followed by another written decision, filed on October 7, 2005.*fn2

Plaintiff appeals, presenting the following two arguments for our consideration:

POINT I

THE LIMITATION IMPOSED UPON THE RIGHTS OF THOSE INJURED BY THE DELAWARE RIVER AND BAY AUTHORITY TO RECOVER FOR THEIR DAMAGES IS UNENFORCEABLE AND ULTRA VIRES.

POINT II

EVEN HAD THE RESTRICTIVE LANGUAGE ON THE PASSENGER TICKET BEEN LAWFULLY AUTHORIZED, THAT LANGUAGE WAS NOT "REASONABLY COMMUNICATED" TO ...


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