DOCKET NO. A-2512-14T4
Costello & Mains, P.C., attorneys for appellant (Deborah L. Mains, on the brief). Parker McCay P.A., attorneys for respondents (John C. Gillespie and Katelyn M. McElmoyl, on the brief).
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION Before Judges Lihotz and Nugent. On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Burlington County, Docket No. L-2053-14. Costello & Mains, P.C., attorneys for appellant (Deborah L. Mains, on the brief). Parker McCay P.A., attorneys for respondents (John C. Gillespie and Katelyn M. McElmoyl, on the brief). PER CURIAM
Plaintiff Robert Raditz, a former Beverly City Police officer, appeals from a December 19, 2014 order dismissing his defamation complaint against defendants Beverly City Police Department, City of Beverly (the City), City Public Safety Director Richard Wolbert and City Council member Robert Thibault. Plaintiff interviewed for a position with a different municipality (hiring municipality). Based on oral statements from officials, he believed he would be hired to commence employment in May 2013. Consequently, he resigned from his position in Beverly. On approximately May 21, 2013, plaintiff was notified he was not selected by the hiring municipality. Plaintiff was told the hiring municipality's police chief "had heard something that changed [his] mind."
In January 2014, plaintiff learned the individual defendants Wolbert and Thibault had "trashed" him when speaking to the prospective employer, stating plaintiff "had lied on official documents and applications while employed at [the] City." He filed his complaint alleging defamation on August 28, 2014.
Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a complaint for which relief could be granted. Specifically, defendants noted a defamation claim must be filed within one year of the complained of conduct. Plaintiff asserted his complaint should be considered timely because he filed within one year of discovering the conduct, which he characterized as done "secretly." Accordingly, plaintiff maintains the time to file suit was extended by the discovery rule. The motion judge disagreed and granted defendants' motion, citing the applicable statute of limitations expired prior to the filing of plaintiff's complaint.
On appeal, plaintiff argues the discovery rule applies to toll the statute of limitations on defamation claims when publication of the defamatory statements were secretive or inherently undiscoverable. Plaintiff urges the extension of the discovery rule as applicable to the presented facts. However, we conclude the issue is foreclosed by the Supreme Court's holding in NuWave Inv. Corp. v. Hyman Beck & Co., Inc., 221 N.J. 495 (2015).
In NuWave, which involved defamatory statements concerning private commercial parties, the Court, in affirming the Appellate Division's order, considered the request to modify the time to file defamation actions and chose to
specifically reject plaintiffs' invitation for the Court to amend the applicable one-year statute of limitations. See N.J.S.A. 2A:14-3. Plaintiffs argue that equity requires the statute of limitations for defamation actions to implicitly include a "discovery rule" in cases involving confidential publications. Although there is a strong argument that such flexibility might advance the cause of justice in certain constrained publications of defamatory information that must be assessed under the current statute of limitations, we consider ourselves bound by the plain language of the statute. See ibid. The statute's clear and unqualified language requires all libel claims to be made within one year of the date of the publication.
That language cannot be reconciled with the exception proposed by plaintiffs. In declining to create a judicial discovery rule, we leave amendment of the statute to the Legislature, should that body deem it advisable to create some flexibility for late discovery of defamation conveyed in confidential documents.
[Id. at 500-501.]
In this matter, plaintiff attempts to save his claims by advancing the same arguments rejected by the Court in NuWave. The Legislature "fixed a precise date on which the limitations period begins to run" and "must be brought within one year of 'the publication' of the alleged libel." Lawrence v. Bauer Publ'g & Printing, Ltd., 78 N.J. 371, 374-75 (1979) (Pashman, J., concurring). Plaintiff failed to file his complaint within this deadline. His complaint was properly dismissed.
Affirmed. I hereby certify that the foregoing is a true copy of the original on file in my office.
CLERK OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION