The New Jersey Supreme Court today ruled on a case that was filed in 2006 — some 8+ years ago. And the case is still not resolved. Much like the Willingboro Mall case, wherein litigation lasted 6 years to determine whether an agreement was reached in mediation, Davis v. Husain presents another case that should have been resolved long ago and for far less money than the parties have expended. This was an employment discrimination case at its core. A trial was held in 2007 and the plaintiff was awarded $12,500 in a judgment. After the trial, the trial judge spoke ex-parte (outside the presence of the lawyers) with a juror and discovered that the juror was prejudiced by the fact that the defendant did not place his hand on the bible when sworn in to testify — nor was this action addressed at the time. Such contact is generally prohibited by rules or court and the judge’s standards of conduct. Appeals were filed around the judge’s ex parte contact with the juror (which the judge later relayed to the lawyers in the case) and now the Supreme Court has ruled that the judge’s actions were inappropriate and remanded the case to determine how prejudicial that conduct was. Justice Lavecchia, who wrote the opinion, added this interesting comment:
It is an understatement that the present status of this matter is troubling. We note the considerable amount of time that has passed since trial, the size of the verdict, and the fact that the present problematic posture of this matter would have been avoided by seeking relief under Rule 1:16-1 by way of a motion for a new trial, timely filed when the trial had more recently occurred.
How much money has been expended on the appeals in this case? It was a $12,500 judgment. Surely more than that by each side. It’s 7 years after the trial was held. And the parties still do not have a resolution. In fact, they have more time and cost to resolve this. This should have settled and should settle before the remand hearing(s). Perhaps the parties need a good mediator.