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Jones v. Englewood Housing Authority


May 5, 2010


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Docket No. L-2646-07.

Per curiam.


Argued April 26, 2010

Before Judges Rodríguez and Reisner.

Plaintiff Cheryl D. Jones appeals from the June 20, 2008 summary judgment in favor of defendant Englewood Housing Authority (Authority), dismissing her complaint with prejudice. We affirm.

Jones filed a Complaint and Jury Demand on November 5, 2007, against the Authority alleging that it:

[l]eft me homeless, living on the streets. Plaintiff applied for housing [and] received no response in the mail. Upon calling to inquire as to the status of the application, she learned that it was denied. [Jones] was further advised that the period for filing an appeal was over and no recourse was possible.

Thus, she alleged that she was wrongfully denied Section 8 housing assistance by the Authority. This in turn led to her becoming homeless and being separated from her family. The Authority alleges it denied Jones's Section 8 housing subsidy by letter dated October 18, 2006. We have not been provided with a copy of the letter nor the reason for the denial.

The Authority moved for summary judgment for non-compliance with the New Jersey Tort Claims Act (TCA), N.J.S.A. 59:1-1 to -12-3. The judge granted summary judgment for failing to file a timely Notice of Claim or Notice of Late Claim pursuant to N.J.S.A. 59:8-3 and 8-9.

On appeal, Jones entire argument is:

I was denied city housing because I am also a caregiver and they said I had a criminal background and I hold the town responsible for stating, insinuating, and accusing me of things that were not true because of the police department.

This contention does not persuade us.

However, we do not agree with the Authority that this claim is governed by the TCA. According to the TCA, "[i]njury means death, injury to a person, damage to or loss of property or any other injury that a person may suffer that would be actionable if inflicted by a private person." N.J.S.A. 59:1-3. Broadly construed, the allegations set forth in the complaint do not come within the definition of an injury. At best, Jones claims that she applied for housing assistance, which was denied. This is not a "loss of property." Nor does her complaint allege any cause of action that could be characterized as a tort.

Nonetheless, we dismiss the appeal because the complaint fails to state a cause of action. A motion for failure to state a claim requires the judge to search the pleading in depth and with liberality in order to determine whether a cause of action is suggested. Printing Mart-Morristown v. Sharp Electronics Corp., 116 N.J. 739, 746 (1989). In addressing such a motion, the court must "accept as true all factual assertions in the complaint." Smith v. SBC Communications, Inc., 178 N.J. 265, 268-69 (2004). Moreover, every reasonable inference to be drawn from the factual assertions must be accorded to the plaintiff. Id. at 282.

However indulgently, the court is required to view the sufficiency of factual allegations. See Camden County Energy Recovery Assocs., L.P. v. New Jersey Dept. of Envtl. Prot., 320 N.J. Super. 59, 64 (App. Div. 1999), aff'd o.b., 170 N.J. 246, (2001). The motion judge must nevertheless grant the motion if the complaint fails to articulate a legally sufficient basis entitling plaintiff to relief. Ibid. As we have held, "[a] motion to dismiss a complaint pursuant to Rule 4:6-2(e) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted must be evaluated in light of the legal sufficiency of the facts alleged in the complaint." Donato v. Moldow, 374 N.J. Super. 475, 482 (App. Div. 2005). Although a plaintiff need not prove the truth of the factual allegations in response to such motion, it is plaintiff's duty to demonstrate allegations "which, if proven, would constitute a valid cause of action." Sickles v. Cabot Corp., 379 N.J. Super. 100, 106 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 185 N.J. 297 (2005) (quoting Leon v. Rite Aid Corp., 340 N.J. Super. 462, 472 (App. Div. 2001)).

Here, with these indulgent standards of review in mind, we exercise our original jurisdiction and grant the motion. We conclude that the complaint was properly dismissed, although based on a different analysis. An order or judgment will be affirmed on appeal, if it is correct, even though the judge gave the wrong reasons for it. Isko v. Planning Bd. of Twp. of Livingston, 51 N.J. 162, 175 (1968).



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