On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Ocean County, Docket No. L-2183-07.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued September 29, 2010
Before Judges Fuentes, Gilroy and Ashrafi.
In this legal malpractice case, plaintiff Kerry L. BeeseMunoz appeals from the order of the Law Division granting defendant Louis M. Barbone's summary judgment motion and dismissing her case. We affirm.
Because the trial court dismissed plaintiff's cause of action as a matter of law, we discuss the salient facts in the light most favorable to plaintiff. Brill v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 142 N.J. 520, 523 (1995); R. 4:46-2(c).
I In October 1998, the Department of Defense (DOD) Police Department hired plaintiff to work as a civilian police officer at the Naval Air Engineering Station in Lakehurst. According to plaintiff, after being passed over for a promotion, she decided to apply for a position in the DOD fire department. She was hired by that department in March 2000.
While working in the fire department, plaintiff was allegedly subjected to harassing behavior and discriminatory statements because of her gender. Although she spoke to her supervisors on several occasions about filing a formal complaint, she was repeatedly assured that her allegations were being investigated and the problem would be resolved.
Plaintiff transferred back to the DOD police department in November 2000. The incident that formed the genesis of this case occurred on December 23, 2002. On that date plaintiff stopped her patrol car outside the DOD police department headquarters and left the vehicle with the engine still running while she briefly went inside. The car was moved to the headquarters parking lot by another officer, and superior officers reprimanded plaintiff for her conduct, which plaintiff concedes was consistent with the Department's standard operating procedures. When plaintiff returned to her vehicle, she discovered that her watch was missing from the attach© case she had left on the front seat. She did not return to work after that day.
On December 31, 2002, plaintiff sent the following letter to the human resources department at the Naval Station:
Due to recent occurrences in the work place[, m]y physician had placed me on medication and has placed me on off duty status. He has advised that I am not to return to work for a period of four to six weeks (4-6) due to my condition. After this time he would like me to return to his office for re-evaluation.
Since this condition was brought on by occurrences at work[,] I believe that my medical condition classifies as an on the job injury. I am requesting that I continue to receive my salary while recovering and not have to use my sick or vacation time. This letter will serve as notification that I am ill for this period and will not be calling the police desk every time I am scheduled to work in order to advise of same.
I have also enclosed a letter from my physician as proof. My physician does not want me to have any contact with base personnel. He feels that this would aggravate my condition. So, if there are any questions by your department[, p]lease contact my physician for verification only or my attorney F. Berry of Toms River. [(Emphasis in original).]
The document denoted by plaintiff as "a letter from my physician" was actually a cryptic handwritten notation on a physician's prescription pad that read: "Kerry Beese - No work 4 to 6 ...