Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Haigh v. Chojnacki

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 15, 2019

SAM HAIGH, Plaintiff,
v.
REED CHOJNACKI, et al., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          PETER G. SHERIDAN, U.S.D.J.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Reed Chojnacki's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 34), Defendants Alec Hirsch and Todd Hirsch's motion for summary judgment, (ECF No. 33), and Defendant Andrew V. Hollander's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 36).[1] This case arises from an alleged arson of Plaintiff Sam Haigh's boat, the Fiddler ("the Fiddler" or "Vessel"). (Hollander Statement of Facts (SOF), ECF No. 36-1 at ¶ 1). Plaintiff brought the present suit against Defendants Andrew V. Hollander, Reed Chojnacki, Alec Hirsch, and Samantha Cooper, all teenagers at the time of the alleged arson, and each teenagers' respective parents or legal guardians. For the reasons set forth below, including the conflicting testimony of the four teenagers, summary judgment will be granted in part and denied in part.

         I

         Andrew, Reed, and Samantha[2] were friends from Red Bank High School, and Alec was Andrew's friend from Marlboro, New Jersey. On January 31, 2014, Andrew, Reed, Alec, and Samantha went to the Dunkin Donuts in Red Bank, New Jersey. (Id. at ¶ 3. Thereafter, the teenagers walked over to the Navesink River. Since the Navesink was frozen, they entered onto the ice and headed towards the Fiddler, which was moored offshore.[3] (Id. at ¶ 4). Alec and Reed boarded the Vessel. (Chojnacki Dep., ECF No. 34-3, T22-24). Alec and Reed removed a flare gun, flares, night vision goggles, and binoculars from the Fiddler. (Hirsch SOF, ECF No, 33-1, at ¶ 12). The teenagers divided up the equipment, but either Alec or Andrew kept the flare gun and flares. (Supp. Investigation Report, ECF No. 33-3 at 66).

         Approximately two weeks after the January theft, on February 12, 2014, the New Jersey State Police received a report that the Vessel was afire on the Navesink River.[4] (Id. at 58). According to the police report, the fire consumed most of the Vessel, and there was "nothing suspicious observed at the scene." (Id.) There were no witnesses. (Id.) Further, a member of the Monmouth Boat Club informed the State Police that the Vessel was subject to a previous act of vandalism two weeks earlier, and it appeared that a rescue flare was shot into the side of the boat, igniting a small fire. (Id.)

         A short time later, Plaintiff allegedly received an anonymous letter that named certain individuals who attended Red Bank High School, and who were allegedly involved in the burning and sinking of the Fiddler. (Haigh SOF, ECF No. 38, at ¶ 3). Plaintiff learned that the individuals named in the letter were known to his children and their friend, Kobe Miller. Plaintiff asked Miller to "keep his eyes and ears open for clues about who may have destroyed the Fiddler." (Id. at ¶ 5). Miller then provided Plaintiff with a printed copy of a Facebook chat he had with Andrew on February 25, 2014, wherein Andrew acknowledged that he was present when the Vessel was set on fire, and he identified the individual who lit the fire as "his friend from Marlboro":

Miller: Hey did you hear about the boat that was destroyed on [N]avesink?
Andrew: maybe... I know who did it... I was there[.]
Kobe Miller: What happened.
Andrew: Me[J [R]eed[, ] my friend[, ] and Sam were there and we robbed the boat (well my friend and [R]eed[, ] I stayed on the ice with Sam) [R]eed found night vision goggles and my friend found the flare guns and flares and when Sam and [R]eed went home me and my friend went back out on the ice and he was drunk . . . and light the flares and left them on the boat then from a distance my friend shot the flare gun at the boat 3 times and on the 3rd one it blew it up . . . [Sam and Reed] weren't there when that happened though just when it was robbed by pirates . . . Pirates = my friend and [R]eed[.]

         (Facebook Chat, ECF No. 33-3, at Ex. F).

         Despite this admission, Andrew subsequently denied any involvement with the fire, and instead alleges that he did not learn of the fire until Reed showed him a news story about the arson. At his deposition, Andrew recanted and admitted that he lied when he blamed the fire on "his friend from Marlboro," Alec. (See Hollander dep., ECF No. 33-4, at ¶ 35:1-12T35:25 to T36:8; T43:15 to T45:12). He explained that he told Miller he was there during the fire because "the kid I was talking to was a popular kid and for someone like me that, you know, was just an average person that's just going through high school it was nice when a popular kid acknowledged he wanted help or wanted anything from me." (Hollander dep., ECF No. 33-4, at T 35:l-12).

         Alec alleges that he was not involved with the fire, but instead first learned of it via a Facebook chat with Andrew, who linked in a newspaper article concerning the fire. (See Hirsch dep., ECF No. 33-3, at Ex. B, T48:6-l 8; Facebook Chat ECF No. 33-3, Ex. E). Alec asked Andrew, "that was you?!" and Andrew responded: "nope ... I know who it was . . . [there was a] gas leak and he [lit] it on fire and booked it." (See Hirsch dep., ECF No. 33-3, at Ex. B, T48:6-18; Facebook Chat ECF No. 33-3, Ex. E).

         Reed denies any involvement with the boat fire, and instead alleges that he first learned of the fire at school through defendants Andrew and Samantha. (Chojnacki dep., ECF No. 34-4, at T 41:1-21 to 42:1). Samantha also stated that around this time, Andrew was "walking around joking about lighting the boat on fire." (Cooper Dep., at T 25:16-24). Samantha noted that ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.