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Whether or not a household member relationship exists, depends on whether the living situation essentially places the plaintiff in a more susceptible position for abusive and controlling behavior in the hands of the defendant.
Plaintiff and defendant were suitemates at Monmouth University. Approximately one month into the semester, animosity developed between plaintiff and defendant. One day, while plaintiff was out with his girlfriend, defendant, in an attempt to obtain plaintiff's roommate's beer, kicked in and damaged plaintiff's bedroom door. When plaintiff returned to the suite and confronted defendant about the damaged door, defendant, the larger of two, put his finger to plaintiff's nose, and slammed him up against the wall, causing a bruise on plaintiff's hand. Although defendant’s conduct constituted both an assault and criminal mischief, and therefore constituted acts of domestic violence within the meaning of the Domestic Violence Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-19(a)(2), (10), defendant contended that plaintiff did not come within the Act’s definition of “victim.”
Was the plaintiff a “victim” within the meaning of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act?
The court found that plaintiff was a "victim" within the meaning of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, specifically N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:25-19(a)(2), (10). Because the roommates had separate sleeping quarters but had to interact on a frequent basis, and the qualities and characteristics of their relationship placed the plaintiff in a more susceptible position for abusive and controlling behavior in the hands of defendant, the case involved more than assaultive conduct between casual friends or relative strangers. For these reasons, as a matter of law, the suitemates were "household members" and therefore came within the jurisdiction of § 2C:25-19(a)(2), (10).