The case of Estate of Cornacchio v. Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and Shah, decided by the Appellate Division earlier this week illustrates the importance of obtaining legal counsel at the earliest opportunity when learning of an injury. For attorneys, the case illustrates the importance of conducting a diligent investigation early on in a case to determine the appropriate course of action on behalf of a client. This is especially true in cases where one of the defendants may be a public entity or a public employee.
In Cornacchio, the plaintiff’s estate filed a wrongful death action against Dr. Chirag Shah. The accident occurred on August 28, 2008; however, a notice of tort claim was not filed until December 1, 2010. The estate never moved for leave to file a late notice of tort claim. A notice of tort claim is required in every negligence case where the defendant is a public entity or public employee. Generally, the notice of claim must be filed within 90 days of the accident.
In spite of the fact that the Estate “diligently pursued” the case, and that the decedent’s daughter had no knowledge that Dr. Shah was a public employee, the claim was dismissed for failure to file a notice of tort claim. According to the court, inattention or inaction is not an extraordinary circumstance to excuse compliance with a a time-sensitive date. Anyone who has been injured in an accident in New Jersey should contact the Elizabeth, New Jersey injury lawyers at Mintz & Geftic for a review of their potential claim and for representation.