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January 2011

New York Office Secures Appellate Victory on Behalf of the Battleship New Jersey

The Gordon & Rees New York office, including Associate Sarir Zandi, successfully defended an appeal, on behalf of the Battleship New Jersey.  The case has been covered extensively in the media, including The Miami Herald and the Courier Post/Gannett.

Plaintiff, a Florida grandmother, had filed an appeal with the New Jersey Appellate Division, arguing that the lower court incorrectly granted summary judgment in favor of the Battleship New Jersey, pursuant to the Charitable Immunity Act.  Plaintiff maintained that the lower court mistakenly ruled that she was a beneficiary of the Battleship’s charitable works, by failing to accept as true her deposition testimony wherein plaintiff stated that she did not personally benefit from her tour of the Battleship.  She also argued that because she was a Florida resident, the Battleship was not performing its educational purposes at the time of her injury, which consisted of providing for the charitable and educational needs of the community

However, the Appellate Division affirmed the lower court’s decision, stating that they “agree with defendant that the judge did not, as plaintiff claims, ‘refuse to accept as true’ her assertion ‘that she was not on the ship for educational purposes’ and was there merely ‘as a tourist.’”  The court decided that instead, the record demonstrated that the lower court accepted such statement as true, but nonetheless concluded that plaintiff’s description of her subjective reasons for touring the Battleship was, as a matter of law, irrelevant to the central question of whether at the time of plaintiff’s injury, defendant was performing the charitable or educational purposes for which it was organized.  The court held that, thus, plaintiff’s subjective statement that she was nothing more than a tourist on the Battleship at the time she was injured, was unconvincing.

With respect to plaintiff’s second argument which turned on her residency status, the Appellate Division decided that as the lower court correctly observed, none of the many opinions that have construed the Charitable Immunity Act has ever drawn the type of geographical distinction that plaintiff sought to advance.  In rejecting plaintiff’s argument, the court noted, “it is not surprising therefore that plaintiff has not cited to any case law.”