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Hahn v. Stevens Institute of Technology

October 8, 2010

PHILIP E. HAHN, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
THE STEVENS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Special Civil Part, Hudson County, Docket No. DC-017133-09.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued September 28, 2010

Before Judges Parrillo and Yannotti.

Plaintiff Philip E. Hahn appeals from a judgment for defendant Stevens Institute of Technology (Stevens) that was entered in this action by the Law Division on October 28, 2009. We affirm.

On July 6, 2009, plaintiff filed a complaint against defendant Stevens Institute of Technology (Stevens) in the Special Civil Part. In his complaint, plaintiff alleged that Stevens wrongfully evicted him from certain premises at 804 Castle Point Terrace in Hoboken, New Jersey. Plaintiff additionally alleged that Stevens wrongfully trespassed on the premises. On August 3, 2009, Stevens filed an answer in which it denied liability.

On October 28, 2009, the matter was tried by the court, sitting without a jury. The court heard testimony from plaintiff; Kenneth Nilsen (Nilsen), Stevens's Dean of Student Life; Timothy J. Griffin (Griffin), Stevens's Chief of Police and Director of Public Safety; and Thomas J. Maggi (Maggi), a captain on the Stevens police force.

Plaintiff testified that he had been residing at the Chi Psi fraternity house at 804 Castle Point Terrace in Hoboken. Plaintiff said that he had an oral agreement with the fraternity which allowed him to stay in the library. Plaintiff stated that, on June 30, 2009, the Stevens campus police came to the fraternity house and told him to leave.

Nilsen testified that one of his responsibilities is to oversee the fraternity and sorority properties and ensure their compliance with university, state and local polices and procedures. Nilsen stated that Chi Psi owns its fraternity house and operates under a charter that Stevens issued. Nilsen said that Stevens has a duty to safeguard the faculty and students on campus and in the "satellite fraternities." Nilsen also stated that plaintiff had been a student at Stevens in the 1980's.

Griffin testified that when he and other officers went to the Chi Psi fraternity house on June 30, 2009, certain fraternity members allowed them to enter. Plaintiff was in a small study area that was furnished with a desk and chair. Griffin did not observe a bed in the room. Griffin asked plaintiff whether he had a written agreement with the fraternity that allowed him to stay there. Plaintiff replied that he did not have a written agreement with the fraternity.

Griffin further testified that the campus police had previously told plaintiff not to come near Stevens because they suspected that plaintiff had written certain letters of a harassing and threatening nature to a faculty member. Griffin told plaintiff to leave the fraternity house. The police offered plaintiff a ride and money to stay elsewhere if he did not have any place to go. Plaintiff declined the offers and left.

Maggi testified that in 2008, he and another campus police officer went to plaintiff's home in Bergen County because they believed that plaintiff had written certain harassing and threatening letters to one of Stevens's professors. Plaintiff denied sending the letters to the professor but made statements which suggested he had written the letters. The police told plaintiff not to return to Stevens.

Maggi additionally testified that his next "interaction" with plaintiff occurred on June 30, 2009, when plaintiff was seen around the Chi Psi fraternity house. Maggi stated that the area is "a basically patrolled Stevens area." Maggi and other officers went to the fraternity house and "one of the frat members" opened the door. The officers proceeded to the library area and told plaintiff to leave. Plaintiff complied voluntarily.

After hearing further testimony from Nilsen and rebuttal testimony from plaintiff, the court placed its decision on the record. The court determined that the evidence indicated that, rather than a claim for trespass, plaintiff actually was asserting a claim for tortious interference with a contract. The court ...


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