The Appellate Division recently upheld a trial court’s ruling in favor of the Firm. In Hutler v. Marina at Southwinds, L.L.C., the Firm, representing the plaintiff, sought to enforce the terms of a contract for defendants to purchase and close title to a commercial property and business. The trial court entered an order compelling defendants to close title and at trial dismissed all the defendants counterclaims. The Appellate Division affirmed, finding that the trial court correctly applied the terms of the contractual provisions and correctly dismissed defendants’ counterclaims.
The Firm recently achieved dismissal of a negligence action related to an injured bather in the waters off the cost of an Ocean County beach. In Petrone v. Borough of Ship Bottom the plaintiff alleged she was injured by a boogie board in the waters off the beach of Ship Bottom. The Firm, representing the Borough of Ship Bottom and the beach patrol, filed a motion for summary judgment.
The Superior Court held that there was no admissible evidence that a boogie board actually caused plaintiff’s injuries. Therefore, the alleged discretionary action of the lifeguards in allowing boogie boards to remain in the water was not the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injures. The court held that the New Jersey Tort Claims Act clearly immunizes discretionary acts of public entities that are not the proximate cause of a plaintiff’s injuries. Therefore, summary judgment was granted and the case was dismissed.
Victory on the case was a team effort. The motion was argued by Partner Jerry J. Dasti, Partner Christopher K. Koutsouris contributed to the briefs and assisted at oral argument, and briefs were prepared by Timothy J. McNichols and Martin J. Buckley.
In the wake of the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision in In re Adoption of N.J.A.C. 5:96, 221 N.J. 1 (2015) (“In re N.J.A.C. 5:96 II”), the Court required municipalities to file declaratory judgment actions before the assigned Mount Laurel Judges. The Firm filed the required action representing Stafford Township. Thereafter, the Firm, as well as numerous other law firms representing various Ocean County municipalities filed an appeal to the Appellate Division concerning the narrow legal issue whether a “separate and discrete” gap-period affordable housing obligation is authorized by (1) the core principles of the Mount Laurel doctrine, as codified in the Fair Housing Act of 1985; and (2) In re N.J.A.C. 5:96 II. Resolution of this legal question specifically addresses whether a municipality’s prospective need involves a retroactive housing obligation starting in 1999.
On appeal, the Appellate Division in a published opinion rendered on July 11, 2016 ruled in favor of the Ocean County municipalities applying the core principles of the Mount Laurel doctrine and the plain language of the Fair Housing Act, including its unambiguous definition of “prospective need”–a forward “projection of housing needs based on development and growth which is reasonably likely to occur in a region or a municipality and following the Supreme Court’s admonition not to become an alternative administrative decision maker for unresolved policy issues surrounding the Third Round Rules, held that the Fair Housing Act does not require a municipality to retroactively calculate a new “separate and discrete” affordable housing obligation arising during the gap period. The previous methodologies employed in the First and Second Round Rules should be used to establish present and prospective statewide and regional affordable housing need and prior round unfulfilled obligations should be the starting point for a determination of a municipality’s fair share responsibility.
The Ocean County Board of Freeholders appointed Christopher J. Dasti to the Ocean County Board of Health. Mr. Dasti will served an unexpired term until March 23, 2017. The Board of Health promotes healthy lifestyles and a clean and safe environment throughout the County. The Board of Health assess the priority needs of the community through comprehensive health planning, educates residents about public health issues.
The firm is proud to announce that it has two new Partners. Christopher K. Koutsouris and Christopher J. Dasti were named Partners on June 9, 2016. This event marks the addition of the first new shareholders to the firm in more than fifteen years.
Mr. Koutsouris joined the firm in 2003 and his practice focuses on personal injury, civil litigation, municipal court practice, as well as both residential and commercial real estate transactions. Mr. Koutsouris is one of only a handful of New Jersey attorneys to be certified by the New Jersey Supreme Court in municipal court law. Mr. Koutsouris serves as municipal prosecutor or public defender in numerous municipalities through Ocean, Monmouth, Mercer, and Burlington counties. Mr. Koutsouris has presented continuing legal education classes on municipal court issues.
Mr. Dasti joined the firm in 2012 and his practice focuses on municipal government law, civil litigation, and real estate. Mr. Dasti serves as municipal attorney for various public entities in Ocean County. Mr. Dasti also serves on the executive boards of numerous organizations in the community.
The Firm has scored another victory before the Appellate Division of the Superior Court. In Berkeley Family Apartments, LLC v. Township of Berkeley, decided on December 7, 2015, the Appellate Division, in the unpublished decision, held that a municipality’s governing body cannot be compelled to adopt a resolution of need. The three judge appellate panel found that because the adoption of resolution of need is not a ministerial act, the plaintiff could not compel the township to adopt the resolution through a writ of mandamus. The Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s complaint against the township.
In its November 16, 2015 issue the New Jersey Law Journal cited the top 10 environmental law cases of 2015. Making it into the top 10 was Griepenburg v. Ocean Township, 220 N.J. 239 (2015), a case in which the Firm successfully defended township ordinances under attack before the New Jersey Supreme Court. Gregory P. McGuckin and Christopher J. Dasti, representing the township, argued successfully that the ordinances were part of a comprehensive scheme for establishing a town center, protecting the town from sprawl and, in a coordinated fashion, preventing the destruction of contiguous areas of inter-related and undeveloped sensitive natural resources.