Exculpatory Agreement That A Police Recruit Had To Sign Did Not Bar His Claim For Injuries
In a case decided in October 2010, The New Jersey Supreme Court considered the validity of an exculpatory agreement that a police recruit named Raymond Marcinczyk was required to sign by the Somerset County Police Academy as a condition of participation in the training program. In training, Marcinczyk was designated as one of two "lunch recruits," which meant that he and another trainee were required to carry a seventy-pound cooler containing the lunches of all recruits from place to place during the course of the program. Marcinczyk and the other recruit were going up a staircase with the cooler when he slipped on "some kind of substance" on the steps and fell, as a result of which he suffered severe and disabling back injuries.
Based on the exculpatory clause, the Academy and other defendants, moved to dismiss Marcinczyk's lawsuit. The motion judge agreed with defendants and dismissed Marcinczyk's complaint. The Appellate Division agreed with the trial court, based solely on the exculpatory clause. The New Jersey Supreme Court reversed the Appellate Division's decision, ruling that the agreement that Marcinczyk was required to sign before police training, in which he agreed that he would not assert any claims for injuries or other damages sustained as a result of the training, was invalid because it contravened public policy as expressed in the New Jersey Tort Claims Act, N.J.S.A. 59:1-1 to 59:12-3. A public entity cannot condition the provision of a public service on the recipient's execution of a waiver of liability.