NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF CHILD PROTECTION AND PERMANENCY, Plaintiff-Respondent,
J.A., Defendant-Appellant. IN THE MATTER OF S.B. and S.A., Minors
Submitted May 28, 2014.
Approved for Publication June 9, 2014.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Bergen County, Docket No. FN-02-78-11.
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant ( Elizabeth D. Burke, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
John J. Hoffman, Acting Attorney General, attorney for respondent ( Andrea M. Silkowitz, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Sara M. Gregory, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, Law Guardian, attorney for minors ( Olivia Belfatto Crisp, Assistant Deputy Public Defender, on the brief).
Before Judges FISHER, KOBLITZ and O'CONNOR. The opinion of the court was delivered by FISHER, P.J.A.D.
[436 N.J.Super. 64] FISHER, P.J.A.D.
In this appeal, we conclude that a parent fails to exercise the minimum degree of care required by N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21(c)(4) when permitting children to be passengers in a vehicle driven by a person who appears to be inebriated.
Here, defendant J.A. (defendant) appeals a finding of abuse and neglect, N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21(c)(4), based on his failure to prevent defendant S.B. (Susan, a fictitious name) from driving their children while she was intoxicated. In affirming, we find no merit in defendant's argument that the facts only support a finding that he was mistaken about whether Susan was capable of safely transporting the children by motor vehicle or that his acts or omissions did not rise to the level of gross negligence.
This action was commenced against defendant and Susan, based on a referral to plaintiff Division of Youth and Family Services, now known as the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (the Division), regarding a motor vehicle incident on Sunday, May 23, 2010. The judge heard evidence that defendant, Susan, and the two children spent the weekend in Wildwood. After spending Sunday morning at a pool, the family had lunch together. The Division caseworker testified that the older child informed her that Susan drank two Bloody Marys and five or six beers. Defendant [436 N.J.Super. 65] drank only " a few beers" because he intended on driving the car home to Garfield that afternoon. While packing the car for the trip home, however, defendant noticed a tail light was not functioning -- a fact that apparently altered his mind about driving; defendant acknowledged during an interview with a Division caseworker that his license was then under suspension for driving while intoxicated.
Consequently, Susan drove the family home. During the trip, they stopped for dinner. According to the older child, the adults had two beers each. The child also told the caseworker that her ...