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There must be a lack of capable attorneys in our region!

As the news was very first broken here on FAA News, just weeks ago, the Lakewood Police Department was slammed with a lawsuit due to a crash allegedly caused by Traffic Safety Officer Alex Guzman.

The Township has just retained Attorney Ian Goldman Esq. of Levin Shea Pfeffer and Goldman, P.A. to defend the police department and Officer Guzman in this matter.

Mr. Goldman, who is a partner to Attorney Adam Pfeffer Esq., also serves as the Municipal Prosecutor for the Township of Lakewood and General Counsel for the Lakewood Township Municipal Utilities Authority and Board of Fire Commissioners.

Mr. Pfeffer and Mr. Goldman are currently representing numerous litigants who are suing the Township.

According to the Complaint filed in New Jersey Superior Court in Ocean County by Cherry Hill Attorney Mark S. Guralnick, Esq.:

On July 26, 2021, Little Egg Harbor resident Shirley Darbo was driving on New Hampshire Avenue in Lakewood approaching the intersection with Route 70. As she approached the intersection, the traffic light was green, in her favor, and so she proceeded to drive across Route 70.

Officer Guzman, driving an unmarked police car, was speeding eastbound on Route 70 and, at the intersection with New Hampshire Avenue, he drove through the red light and struck Darbo's vehicle, which caused her to sustain serious injuries.

The serious injuries from the crash have caused her to sustain "permanent loss of earnings, and has incurred or in the future will incur expenses for treatment of said injuries in excess of the applicable threshold, has been caused and in the future will be caused great pain and suffering, has been deprived and in the future will be deprived of her right to the enjoyment of life to her great loss and damage."

Guzman was not involved in an active pursuit of a suspect or in a high-speed chase, but rather was responding to some other purported emergency. Even if he was, as he claims, involved in an active pursuit or a high- speed chase, Guzman violated the New Jersey Vehicular Pursuit Policy of 1993 as well as the specific commands of superiors and standing orders of the Lakewood Police Department with respect to emergency response protocols. Therefore he is not cloaked with immunity under the Tort Claims Act.

Guzman exhibited willful misconduct, bad faith, gross negligence and extreme recklessness because, among other reasons:

At the time of the crash, he was knowingly driving an unmarked car through a red light at a high rate of speed; and he was using his cell phone at the time of the accident. He was knowingly and recklessly speeding when there was no need for such urgency at a busy Township intersection; and he knowingly and recklessly failed to ensure that other traffic, including cross- traffic on New Hampshire Avenue, had come to a stop before proceeding through the intersection.

Guzman also operated his unmarked vehicle in a careless, unreasonable and negligent fashion, in that he:

(a) caused Darbo to sustain personal, injuries of a temporary and permanent nature;
(b) failed to maintain a proper lookout at all times;
(c) failed to keep said motor vehicle under safe and proper control at all times;
(d) failed to give proper and adequate warning of his intentions;
(e) failed to apply brakes at a proper time;
(f) failed to operate his vehicle safely under the attending roadway conditions;
(g) failed to avoid an accident;
(h) failed to keep his vehicle in safe and proper condition;
(i) failed to operate said vehicle properly;
(j) violated the Motor Vehicle Statutes of the State of New Jersey;
(k) failed to maintain a safe distance under the attending circumstances; and
(l) disregarded the rights of others and was otherwise careless.

The 4-count suit names as Defendants the Police Department and Officer Guzman.

The suit also names as Defendants the as-yet-unidentified business entities and individual persons who; (a) caused the emergency which Guzman claims he was responding to; (b) hired, trained, supervised, retained, assigned, managed, monitored, or otherwise were responsible for Guzman's conduct. These individuals will be named in a future amendment to the Complaint once their identities are learned through Discovery.

The Complaint alleges that "all of the defendants were negligent, grossly negligent, careless and extremely reckless in their actions and in their operation of one or more motor vehicles, and their conduct exhibited a lack of good faith and willful misconduct.

"Such actions and conspiracy in furtherance of same perpetrated by the Defendants served to deprive Plaintiff of the rights and privileges of the United States Constitution and sections 1983 and 1988 of 42 U.S.C In particular, Plaintiff was deprived of her right to due process of law, of her right to happiness, to liberty, to be free from physical injury and the unwarranted deprivation and destruction of her property.

"The Police Department and the Township, have as a matter of public policy and practice with deliberate indifference, failed to adequately hire, train, retain, supervise, discipline, sanction or otherwise direct their police officers in their respective duties, and to the requirements mandated by law and applicable to this and similar situations at the scene in this case, regarding the protection of the constitutional rights of citizens, and more importantly wholly failed to take appropriate corrective and remedial actions with regard to Constitutional abuses based upon past occurrences and acts and omissions of the individual officers and the Department as a whole.

"Such policy, practice and deliberate indifference has served to sanction the police officers’ unlawful conduct as described above and was a proximate cause of the violations of Plaintiff’s rights on the date of the occurrence complained of."

The lawsuit seeks for damages, together with pre- judgment and post-judgment interest and attorney’s fees.

The Township has now retained Attorney Ian Goldman Esq. of Levin Shea Pfeffer and Goldman, P.A. to defend the police department and Officer Guzman in this matter.

Mr. Goldman, who is a partner to Attorney Adam Pfeffer Esq., also serves as the Municipal Prosecutor for the Township of Lakewood and General Counsel for the Lakewood Township Municipal Utilities Authority and Board of Fire Commissioners.

Mr. Goldman has just filed an Answer to the Complaint admitting only to the extent that Officer Guzman was using a handsfree Bluetooth device while driving a vehicle owned or controlled by the Police Department and the Township, but denying that he was speeding, or otherwise operating his vehicle in a negligent, careless, or reckless manner.

Additionally, Mr. Goldman is alleging separate defenses, including the following:

1) The accident and injuries alleged were caused or contributed to by the negligence of others over whom this Defendant had no control and for whom it had no legal liability.


2) This suit is barred by the Statute of Limitations.


3) The defendants are immune under the Tort Claims Act.


4) The applicability of the provisions of N.J.S.A 59:4-7 as to the effect of weather conditions on the use of streets and highways are asserted.

5) The Township of Lakewood is immune under common law snow and ice immunity.


6) The applicability of the provisions of N.J.S.A 59:5-4 as to the failure to provide police protection services are asserted.


7) The applicability of the provisions of N.J.S.A 59:8-3 through N.J.S.A 59:8-7 regarding failure to provide adequate notice of claim are asserted.


8) The applicability of the provisions of N.J.S.A 59:8-8 through N.J.S.A 59:8-11 regarding failure to timely file notice of claim are asserted.


9) Defendant was free of any and all negligence.

10) Defendant violated no legal duty owed by them to Plaintiff.

11) Plaintiff is barred from recovery for a blatant failure to mitigate damages.

12) Plaintiff is solely liable for the underlying incident, thereby allowing Defendant to deny the alleged claim.

13) At no time germane to the incidents complained of by the Plaintiff did Defendant act in an arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable manner.

14) Plaintiff assumed the risk and was fully cognizant of any and all circumstances surrounding the alleged incidents complained of in the Complaint and also assumed the damages and is, therefore, barred from recovery.

15) The conduct of Defendant was legal, reasonable, proper, and they acted reasonably under the then existing circumstances.

16) The allegations of Plaintiff’s complaint are frivolous and without merit, and an abuse of process under the laws of the State of New Jersey.

17) Plaintiff has commenced this action in bad faith and with the intent to harass the Defendant and to cause great sums of money to be expended in defending this cause of action. Therefore, Defendant will seek reimbursement of attorney’s fees and costs pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:15-59.1

18) Plaintiff’s complaint is barred for failing to exhaust all administrative remedies.

19) Plaintiff has failed to implead all necessary and indispensable parties to this action.


20) Plaintiff’s claims are generalized and conclusory and, thus, Defendant cannot fully anticipate all the affirmative defenses that may be asserted in the within action.

Accordingly, Defendant specifically reserves the right to interpose such other and further
defenses as continuing investigation and discovery may reveal.

The case has been assigned to James James Den Uyl. Discovery will continue until June 3, 2024.

The Lakewood Police Department is currently involved in multiple lawsuits.

As previously reported here on FAA News, Freehold Township resident Ujjwala Jain is suing the police department due to a crash allegedly caused by Officer Matthew T. McKee while driving a police department vehicle on Route 88 in Brick Township in a non-emergency situation.

Additionally, the Township is litigating a federal lawsuit filed by Lakewood resident Courtney Griffin who charges he was "deprived of his civil rights when officers pursued, detained, surrounded and fought with him in the street on the night of December 18th, 2019."

As more recently reported here on FAA News, the Police Department is also being sued in federal court by Lakewood resident Nelson Mawalla who is appealing the Police Department's refusal to grant him a gun license.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The crash occurred on July 26, 2021.

Why is Ian asserting "The Township of Lakewood is immune under common law snow and ice immunity?"

Ian is a lousy attorney. Officer Guzman deserves at least a fighting chance.