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Boyle v. Giannakis, et al., Docket No. MID-L-6571-18

Client: School Board Member Defendants

Court: Superior Court, Law Division, Civil Part, Middlesex County

Trial Attorney:  Cameron R. Morgan, Esq.

Brief Attorney: Cameron R. Morgan, Esq.

A member of the South Plainfield Board of Education, Deborah Boyle, and her husband, brought suit against four other current school board members, two former board members, and six other citizens of the South Plainfield community, alleging claims of harassment, gender based discrimination under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), terroristic threats, conspiracy, and loss of consortium.  Plaintiffs’ claims were based primarily on her allegations that one of the defendant school board members had attended meetings of the local middle school PTO of which Plaintiff was the president, sought to obtain financial records related to the organization, and expressed views which Plaintiff found harassing.  After being denied access to the PTO financial records, several of the defendants later ran for and were elected to the Board of Education, and the Board lawfully enacted a policy prohibiting current Board members from serving in positions of executive leadership in the local PTO, thereby causing Plaintiff to resign her presidency of that organization.  Plaintiff also alleged that several local citizens had made statements or engaged in conduct which she felt diminished her reputation in the local community.

After permitting Plaintiffs several opportunities to amend, on June 26, 2019, the trial court granted Defendants’ Third Motion to Dismiss in Lieu of an Answer, dismissing all six of the seven counts of the complaint applicable to the Board member defendants, in their entirety and with prejudice.  The court held that, even if a cause of action exists in New Jersey for civil harassment, plaintiffs’ claims could not survive a motion to dismiss, as they had failed to plead the necessary elements of a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.  The court also dismissed Plaintiffs’ NJLAD claims, finding that Plaintiffs had failed to plead facts sufficient to show an “unlawful employment practice” or “unlawful discrimination,” within the meaning of the NJLAD, N.J.S.A. 10:5-5d, as there was no employer/employee relationship, and the conduct alleged was not within any of the twenty subsections of the NJLAD setting forth the various categories of unlawful discrimination pursuant to N.J.S.A. 10:5-12.  Claims of harassment against one of the citizens of the community were also dismissed with prejudice.

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