NORTH WILDWOOD – As a result of a motion filed for summary judgment by Barker, Gelfand, James & Sarvas, legal counsel for the City of North Wildwood, Superior Court Judge J. Christopher Gibson ruled in favor of the city, dismissing all plaintiffs’ claims with prejudice.
According to a city release, the lawsuit was originally brought by the plaintiff who was a bystander injured during the course of a rescue response for a person in distress in the ocean.
The city was awarded/granted summary judgment, which appears to be the first time in the State of New Jersey that lifeguards were protected from civil liability under the Good Samaritan Act.
The Good Samaritan Act has historically been interpreted by the New Jersey courts as only applying to individuals who render aid to a victim at the scene of an accident or emergency who do not otherwise have a preexisting duty do so.
Several amendments to the Good Samaritan Act and other court decisions over the years have made that interpretation questionable.
Gibson’s opinion is an unpublished Trial Court opinion and is not precedential; however, it will likely be persuasive in other similar cases arising in the Atlantic-Cape May Vicinage, as well as other vicinages throughout the state.
Although this is a ruling in the city’s favor, city officials direct all residents, visitors, and vacationers to be aware of their surroundings and possible emergencies in their vicinity; and, only enter the water in front of lifeguards, at guarded beaches, during beach patrol hours of operation, during the summer season (10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.).
“North Wildwood is satisfied with the court’s decision, as this will allow lifeguards to act in emergency situations, a decision otherwise may have had lifeguards facing civil liability,” stated Mayor Patrick Rosenello.