On appeal from the Chancery Division, Family Part, Hudson County, Docket No. FN-09-246-10.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted January 17, 2012 --
Before Judges A.A. Rodriguez and Ashrafi.
Appellant challenges the finding against her of abuse or neglect towards her then seventeen-year-old daughter, N.B. We reverse.
It is undisputed that on January 15, 2010, there was a physical altercation between appellant and her daughter. This resulted in Daughter being treated at the Jersey City Medical Center. The hospital staff contacted the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS).
DYFS conducted an investigation and filed a notice of emergency removal of Daughter and her two-month-old son, Z.B., from the custody of Appellant.
Five days after the incident, there was a hearing to review the temporary removal. Tiffany Meredith, a DYFS caseworker, testified regarding her interviews with three people who witnessed the altercation: Appellant, Daughter and appellant's boyfriend, W.W. According to Meredith's testimony, Daughter was staying at Appellant's house with Z.B. At around 1:00 a.m. on January 15, 2010, Daughter was on the computer. Appellant, awakened by Z.B.'s crying, told Daughter to get off and go tend to Z.B. Daughter did not comply. Appellant returned, reached down, unplugged the computer and reiterated her demand. The argument then escalated into blows. Daughter claimed that Appellant was holding Z.B. while the physical altercation occurred.
W.W. told Meredith that Daughter had attacked him with a butcher knife which left some scratches on his arm. After W.W. subdued Daughter, Appellant called the police, who took Daughter to Jersey City Medical Center.
Meredith's report, which was submitted into evidence, noted that hospital staff reported bruising and swelling around Daughter's left eye. According to Meredith, when she responded to the hospital, Daughter's "left eye was swollen, slightly swollen."
After Daughter was discharged, Meredith spoke to Appellant, who reported being fearful of Daughter's return. She did not want Daughter to return to her home because of Daughter's knife attack against W.W.
On July 12, 2010, there was a fact-finding hearing at which Meredith testified consistent with her prior testimony. Daughter did not testify.
Appellant testified that she was in bed on January 15, 2010. At around 1:00 a.m., Z.B., who was sleeping in the bed with her, began to cry because it was his feeding time. When she brought him to Daughter, Daughter placed him in a swing next to the computer and gave him a pacifier. Appellant went back to bed. She came back out when Z.B.'s crying continued. Appellant unplugged the computer. Daughter became upset and swung her fists at Appellant, who was hit in the shoulder/face area. Appellant was scared because Daughter is strong. Appellant was physically hurt when Daughter struck her. Z.B. remained in the ...