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Wilson ex rel. Manzano v. City of Jersey City

Supreme Court of New Jersey

October 12, 2011, Argued; March 8, 2012, Decided

A-61/A-62 September Term 2010

Opinion

 [*562]  [**179]   Justice ALBIN delivered the opinion of the Court.

In this appeal, we must determine whether 9-1-1 operators, along with their public-entity  [***10] employers, are statutorily immune from civil liability for the negligent mishandling of emergency calls. The paramount issue before us is the scope of the 9-1-1 immunity statute, N.J.S.A. 52:17C-10.

The panels in Massachi v. City of Newark Police Department, 415 N.J. Super. 518, 522, 2 A.3d 1117 (App.Div.2010) and in this case, Wilson ex rel. Manzano v. City of Jersey City, 415 N.J. Super. 138, 157, 165, 1 A.3d 723 (App.Div.2010), concluded that, under N.J.S.A. 52:17C-10, 9-1-1 operators are not immune for mistakes made when they dispatch police, fire, or first-aid personnel to the scene of an emergency, but are immune for mistakes made when they assist police in an ongoing investigation. Under this construction of the statute, 9-1-1 operators have no immunity for errors committed in carrying out their primary responsibility -- dispatching first-responders to the scenes of emergencies, but have immunity for a secondary responsibility -- providing assistance  [*563]  to an ongoing  [**180]  police investigation. Under this interpretation of N.J.S.A. 52:17C-10, 9-1-1 operators do not share the same statutory immunity that shields police, fire, or first-aid personnel from liability for their missteps in responding to the scene  [***11] of an emergency.

In this case, the Wilson appellate panel overturned the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of two 9-1-1 operators, as well as their public employer, who were sued because of their alleged negligent handling of an emergency call reporting a disturbance that, in fact, turned out to be a multiple homicide. We now reverse and remand.

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209 N.J. 558 *; 39 A.3d 177 **; 2012 N.J. LEXIS 204 ***; 2012 WL 739043

PARIS WILSON, AN INFANT BY HIS GUARDIAN AD LITEM, SONYA MANZANO, AND D'ARTAGNAN MANZANO, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATES OF DEQUAN WILSON AND DARTAGNANIA WILSON, AND DEQUAN WILSON AND DARTAGNANIA WILSON, INDIVIDUALLY, PLAINTIFFS-RESPONDENTS, v. CITY OF JERSEY CITY, 911 OPERATOR LAURA JEAN PETERSEN (OPERATOR NO. 35) AND 911 OPERATOR BRENDA MURDAUGH-JONES (OPERATOR NO. 326), DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS, AND POLICE OFFICER JOSE M. SANTANA (SHIELD NO. 2853), POLICE OFFICER ERNEST VIDAL (SHIELD NO. 2395), RADIO DISPATCHER MICHAEL EDWARD CLARK, STATE OF NEW JERSEY, NEW JERSEY STATE POLICE, AND 911 OPERATOR LU ANN BURD, DEFENDANTS, AND CITY OF JERSEY CITY, POLICE OFFICER JOSE M. SANTANA (SHIELD NO. 2853), POLICE OFFICER ERNEST VIDAL (SHIELD NO. 2395), 911 OPERATOR LAURA JEAN PETERSEN (OPERATOR NO. 35), SUPREME COURT OF NEW JERSEY, 2012. RADIO DISPATCHER MICHAEL EDWARD CLARK, AND 911 OPERATOR BRENDA MURDAUGH-JONES (OPERATOR NO. 326), DEFENDANTS—THIRD—PARTY PLAINTIFFS, v. DWAYNE WILSON AND 185 MARTIN LUTHER KING DRIVE, LLC; STATE OF NEW JERSEY, NEW JERSEY STATE POLICE, THIRD—PARTY DEFENDANTS.

Subsequent History: On remand at, Decision reached on appeal by Wilson v. City of Jersey City, 2012 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 1556 (App.Div., June 28, 2012)

Prior History:  [***1] On certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division, whose opinion is reported at 415 N.J. Super. 138, 1 A.3d 723 (2010).

Wilson ex rel. Manzano v. City of Jersey City, 415 N.J. Super. 138, 1 A.3d 723, 2010 N.J. Super. LEXIS 156 (App.Div., 2010)

CORE TERMS

enhanced, telephone, dispatch, telecommunications, wireless, entities, omissions, first-aid, wanton, personnel, caller, scene, handling, ongoing, mishandling, municipalities, carriers, cellular, shields, door, statewide, hardware, lawsuits, software, ejusdem, generis, ticket, radio, dial, save

Governments, Local Governments, Claims By & Against, Torts, Public Entity Liability, Immunities, General Overview, Employees & Officials, Police Power, Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Legislation, Interpretation, Judgments, Summary Judgment, Evidentiary Considerations, Summary Judgment Review, Standards of Review, Communications Law, Regulated Entities, Telephone Services, Qualified Immunity, State & Territorial Governments, Liability, State Tort Claims Acts, Employees