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Conti v. County of Mercer

February 20, 2009

JERRY M. CONTI, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
COUNTY OF MERCER, DIVISION OF TRANSPORTATION & INFRASTRUCTURE & T.R.A.D.E., DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Mercer County, Docket No. L-1700-06.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted January 14, 2009

Before Judges Parrillo and Messano.

Plaintiff Jerry M. Conti appeals from the April 25, 2008 order that granted defendant, County of Mercer (the County), Division of Transportation & Infrastructure, T.R.A.D.E., summary judgment and dismissed plaintiff's complaint with prejudice.*fn1 We affirm.

Plaintiff filed his complaint on June 28, 2006 alleging he had been employed as a motor vehicle operator for the County since 1994. In January 2000, he was "placed on certain physical restrictions for the performance of his regular and assigned duties," and, thereafter, during calendar years 2000 through 2004, his supervisors routinely harassed him "by instituting false and bogus disciplinary charges, verbal abuse and threatening comments." As a result, plaintiff complained that he was 1) "compelled to accept an early retirement . . . in violation of N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 [through -49]" (the LAD); and 2) "harass[ed] on the basis of [his] physical disabilities in violation of [the LAD]." He sought compensatory and punitive damages. Defendant filed its answer, and, after some interim discovery disputes were resolved, moved for summary judgment.

In September 2002, the County filed a Preliminary Notice of Disciplinary Action against defendant alleging he was "unfit for duty" based upon his own physician's report. On February 27, 2004, plaintiff and the County entered into a "Settlement Agreement" (the Agreement) eventually reduced to writing and executed by all concerned on April 2, 2004. The Agreement's preamble provided that plaintiff and the County "ha[d] voluntarily resolved all disputed matters and enter[ed] into the [] Agreement, which fully dispose[d] of all issues in controversy between" them. Noting the County had withdrawn the disciplinary charge, subject to potential reinstatement, the Agreement provided for the plaintiff to retire, effective July 3, 2004. In the interim three months, plaintiff would work in the position of "[d]ispatcher." The County also agreed to "support an Ordinary Disability Retirement application" to the Division of Pensions by plaintiff, "to the extent that is appropriate[.]"

The Agreement then provided:

7. [Plainitff] waives any and all claims against the County [], its agents and its employees including but not limited to any award of back pay, counsel fees, or other monetary relief.

8. [Plaintiff] agrees that this settlement constitutes full and final resolution of all issues arising from the matters in question as well as any related matter not listed which is currently filed or pending in any court or before any administrative agency including any notices of claim against the County. [Plaintiff] agrees to forbear from any further appeals, direct or indirect, of these charges or the terms of this agreement in this or any other form (sic), including but not limited to Superior Court of New Jersey, District Court of New Jersey, New Jersey Division of Civil Rights, Merit System Board, Office of Administrative Law, New Jersey Public Employees Relations Commission and any other federal, state or local court of administrative agency.

This agreement does not apply to any pending claim for benefits with the New Jersey Division of Workers' Compensation.

9. This agreement and its terms apply to this matter and this matter only. This agreement shall have no precedential effect on other employees and shall not be binding on [the] county in any other forum. (Emphasis added.)

Plaintiff executed the agreement indicating he did so "voluntarily, free from any coercion, duress or undue influences."

In urging summary judgment, the County argued that plaintiff's complaint should be dismissed because he waived any claims he had under the LAD when he entered into the Agreement. They further contended that his complaint should be dismissed because it was not brought within two years of the execution of the Agreement, and thus was barred by the statute of limitations. See Montells v. Haynes, 133 ...


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