In 2014 the New Jersey Appellate Division reinstated a lawsuit that was filed by Natasha Ramirez concerning an accident in which she fell out of her wheelchair. The Appellate Division overturned a ruling of Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Joseph Quinn, who dismissed the case pursuant to a determination that Ramirez’s mother, and guardian, was capable of pursuing the claim within the deadline, but had not done so. Ramirez had suffered from other health problems before the date of accident including cerebral palsy, but was able to do some walking and care for her own bathroom needs. After the accident she was confined to a wheelchair. She also suffered from seizures post-accident.
The Tort Claims Act requires a claimant to file notice within 90 days of the injury, or when one reasonably knows that they have been injured. That deadline can then be extended up to one (1) year if the claimant establishes extraordinary circumstances. However Judge Quinn did not feel that extraordinary circumstances were demonstrated in that there had been no evidence that Ramirez was “incapacitated” or unable to pursue the claim.
The Appellate Division reinstated the lawsuit indicating that there was a showing of “extraordinary circumstances” and relief from the 90 days notice requirement under the Act was necessary since the accident left Ramirez with inability to walk and difficulty finding representation.
The Appellate Division analogized this matter to Unkert v. General Motors, 301 N.J. Super. 583 (1997). In Unkert the plaintiff had suffered severe head injuries and was not able to manage his personal affairs and required his parents to become guardians. When they filed suit, defendant General Motors sought summary judgment relative to the two-year statute o limitations and had argued that the guardians were fully capable of bringing the suit within the two years. The Appellate Division said that as long as the plaintiff was “incompetent” the status of the guardian was merely incidental.
Hence, in Ramirez, the Appellate Division concluded that despite a guardian having been appointed it was determined that Ramirez’s injuries and difficulties in finding a lawyer could be considered, and are to be considered exceptional circumstances waiving the 90-day requirement.