WEST WILDWOOD - A Cape May County Superior Court judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by former West Wildwood Mayor Herbert “Chuck” Frederick against his successor, former West Wildwood Mayor Christopher Fox, Police Chief Jacquelyn Ferentz, the borough, and several other defendants (https://bit.ly/3rZXDzt).
Judge James Pickering Jr. dismissed the harassment and infliction of emotional distress claim on a technicality, ruling to grant the defendants’ motion, in a written decision issued Feb. 16.
The plaintiff failed to issue a tort claim notice to any defendant, the order states, which is a required step “to bring a suit in tort against a public entity or public employee” in this type of case, the order states.
Only the borough would have been required to be served with such a notice if the other defendants were clearly identified in it, according to Pickering’s decision.
James Birchmeier, an attorney representing Fox, Ferentz, the borough, and the other remaining defendants – former Administrator Christopher Ridings, former Solicitor Mary D’Arcy Bittner, former Commissioner Scott Golden, and former Commissioner Cornelius Maxwell, also argued harassment is not an actionable claim in New Jersey, the statute of limitations expired and the lawsuit was frivolous, but those claims did not meet the standard to dismiss, and the suit would’ve continued if the tort claim notice was properly served.
The two attorneys who tried Ferentz’s suit, which resulted in her $1.7 million jury verdict at the core of Frederick’s complaint, Louis Barbone, for the borough, and Michelle Douglass, for Ferentz, were also named in Frederick’s suit, but previously had the action against them dismissed because of litigation privilege protections for attorneys.
During oral arguments held over Zoom Feb. 5, Daniel McElhatton, Frederick’s attorney, explained that a tort claim notice was not required in the case.
“Judge, I learned a long time ago, when you’re losing, shut up and move on,” McElhatton said.
Neither Birchmeier nor McElhatton immediately returned phone calls for comment on the judge’s decision.