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J.J v. J.M

August 15, 2011


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Burlington County, FV-03-000371-11.

Per curiam.



Submitted May 18, 2011

Before Judges Nugent and Kestin.

Defendant, J.M., appeals from the August 31, 2010 Final Restraining Order (FRO) entered by the Family Part against him and in favor of plaintiff, J.J., under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (the Act), N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35. We affirm.


The following facts were developed during the FRO hearing. The parties are the parents of a daughter who was born during their five-year relationship that ended in 1990. Plaintiff testified that she left the relationship because defendant was abusive to her and abused drugs. After they separated, the parties had no contact except in court during child support proceedings. Defendant no longer pays child support because their daughter is emancipated, but he recently had his wages garnished due to child support arrears.

The relevant events occurred in August 2010 at the doctor's office where plaintiff had begun working as a billing specialist in March or April of the same year. The doctor's office consisted of two adjacent buildings. Plaintiff worked in one and "punched out" in the other. According to plaintiff, on Friday, August 20, 2010, defendant drove by the offices, backed into a street, waited for plaintiff to walk from one building to the other, then pulled out and drove by slowly. Plaintiff thought nothing of it until the following Monday.

On Monday, plaintiff was working in her office when the medical receptionist called her and said "a [J.M.] is here to serve you with paperwork stating you gave out information on his wife, privileged medical information. . . ." Plaintiff said she did not know what the receptionist was talking about. During the conversation, plaintiff heard defendant yelling in the background and making a scene. He wanted to see the manager and said he was there to serve plaintiff with paperwork. Plaintiff came down to see what was going on, and defendant "bolted out." Plaintiff called after him but he ignored her. The next day, the office administrator asked plaintiff what was going on, and told her she had "to keep [her] private business private." The administrator admonished her not to bring her personal business into the workplace.

Defendant disputed plaintiff's version of the events. He testified that plaintiff's employer was his doctor, with whom he had been treating for six years. He had a disability case pending, and went to his doctor's office on Friday afternoon at the direction of his disability attorney to get some addresses. He intended "to look on the door and see if [he] could see a number off one of the doctors that [he] needed [for his disability claim]." He saw plaintiff locking the door, so he proceeded to the other office, looked "on [the doctor's] office, got what [he] needed[,]" and left.

Defendant returned to the office on Monday morning, on the advice of his attorney, to see if plaintiff had disclosed his confidential medical information. His son had told him that plaintiff had revealed medical information about his disability claim. According to defendant, about three weeks earlier, his son had been unable to accompany him to a family reunion in North Carolina and his son's mother was in Florida for a different family reunion, so his son stayed with plaintiff. His son had information about his disability claim that no one else knew, and his son said that plaintiff gave him the information. Consequently, on Monday, he went to the office with a friend, B.R., to determine if his HIPAA*fn1 rights had been violated.

When he arrived at the office on Monday, he asked to see the office manager but she was not there. He told the receptionist his HIPAA rights had been violated and asked if plaintiff worked there. The receptionist did not recognize plaintiff's name, but another employee said that she worked in billing. The receptionist phoned her, at which time defendant said he did not want to speak to plaintiff, but only wanted to speak with the office manager. When the receptionist replied that plaintiff was on her way down, defendant said he would wait for the office manager and left the building. Plaintiff came running out of the building screaming his name, but he ignored her, got into his car, and drove away. He testified that he subsequently filed a complaint with the federal government alleging HIPAA violations. He did not produce a copy of the complaint. B.R. corroborated defendant's version of Monday's events.

In rebuttal, plaintiff denied giving out medical information about defendant, denied having seen defendant's son, and denied knowing defendant was a patient of the doctor. In response to the court's questions, plaintiff testified that defendant had an unpleasant telephone conversation with the office administrator on Tuesday. The office ...

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