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New Jersey Torts Clams Act-"A Trap for the Unwary?" - Part II

The New Jersey Supreme Court made the obligations of state-employed physicians absolutely clear. If those doctors wish to seek protection under the Act, then they must advise their patients, both orally and in writing, that they are employees of the State of NJ as soon as practicable. Additionally the Court opined: “It would also be helpful if clinical professors wore badges identifying themselves as UMDNJ employees.” The Justices stopped short, however, of requiring Title 59 physicians to tell their patients directly of the Tort Claim Act’s (TCA) notice provisions. In addressing the question in Ventola v. N.J. Veteran’s Memorial Home, 164 N.J. 74 (2000), they noted “There is something unsettling about encouraging physicians to tell their patients at first treatment: ‘I am your doctor. I am an employee of the State of New Jersey. If you have reason to believe I have treated you improperly, you have 90 days within which to make a claim against me.’” They concluded by deciding that compliance with the provisions above, taken together with the holdings of these cases, should be enough to make patients aware of their physician’s protected status under the TCA.

In our experience, however, we have found that the average health care consumer in New Jersey has never heard of either the TCA or its notice provisions. For our clients, negotiating the maze of State hospitals and its employees is a Herculean task. At Levinson Axelrod, we stand poised to guide you through the labyrinth, and to ensure that both your TCA Notice of Claim and your lawsuit are filed in a timely fashion.

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