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Virginia Larry v. State of New Jersey

December 28, 2011

VIRGINIA LARRY, PLAINTIFF,
AND DOREEN GRIFFIN, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Mercer County, Docket No. L-2154-08.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued October 24, 2011

Before Judges Grall and Alvarez.

Plaintiff Doreen Griffin appeals the October 1, 2010 grant of summary judgment dismissing her complaint alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and false imprisonment against defendant State of New Jersey. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

Plaintiff was employed in the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety with an office in the Hughes Justice Complex. In May 2007, co-workers lodged complaints of harassment against her, and her co-worker Virginia Larry, also a named plaintiff,*fn1 with the Department's Manager of Human Resources.

In the presence of a Human Resource staff person and a New Jersey State trooper, plaintiff was called into her Section Chief's office, advised she was suspended, and directed to leave the building immediately. The trooper opened the door for plaintiff, walked with her to her office so she could clear out her desk, and accompanied her out of the building. Human Resources had contacted the State Police upon the lodging of the co-workers' complaints, and the State Police were included in the subsequent investigation.

On June 18, 2007, the first day plaintiff was scheduled to return to work, she fainted on the steps outside the Hughes Justice Complex. At that juncture she did not know the disposition of the complaints. Plaintiff was examined by the State doctor and did not return to work until the following day. She was then informed the allegations against her were not substantiated.

In the ensuing weeks, plaintiff saw a psychologist for some fifteen sessions as she reported experiencing depression and other symptoms she claims were caused by the suspension. She was prescribed an anti-depressant for her symptoms. Plaintiff's civil complaint soon followed.

The trial judge granted defendant's motion for summary judgment because he concluded that even viewing the facts in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the circumstances fell short of a prima facie case of intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress, or false imprisonment. He also found that plaintiff did not satisfy the verbal threshold.

We review the grant of summary judgment using the same standard as the trial court utilized in its issuance. Prudential Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co. v. Boylan, 307 N.J. Super. 162, 167 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 154 N.J. 608 (1998). Summary judgment is appropriate where there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. R. 4:46-2(c). Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, where it is clear that there is but one "single, unavoidable resolution of the alleged dispute[,]" summary judgment should be granted. Brill v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 142 N.J. 520, 540 (1995). We conclude the court correctly granted summary judgment because the dismissal of the complaint was the "single, unavoidable resolution of the [] dispute." See ibid.

In order to establish intentional infliction of emotional distress, a plaintiff must prove:

(1) that the actor intended to inflict[] emotional distress or that he knew or should have known that emotional distress was the ...


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