PARSIPPANY — Superior Court Appellate Division (Docket No. A-2356-17T1) granted James Carifi a new trial in Carifi vs. Township of Parsippany-Troy Hills, and Governing Body of the Township of Parsippany-Troy Hills. (also known as Carifi I).
In the decision dated on Tuesday, December 14, the Appellate Division stated “On appeal, Plaintiff argues that the trial judge effectively declined to answer the jury’s question inquiring “who or what does [the Township] include,” resulting in a harmful error that warrants a new trial.” We agree.
“Based upon our review of the trial record, if properly instructed, a reasonable jury could have found that upper-level supervisory personnel within the PD retaliated against [Carifi] for engaging in protected whistleblower activities. …[Plaintiff] presented substantial evidence that would support a determination that other supervisory employees in the PD – the deputy chief and one or more captains – engaged in retaliatory action against plaintiff…”
The Judge stated “Plaintiff presented compelling evidence that Capt. Paul Philipps response was clearly incorrect and constituted either a careless misstatement or a deliberate lie.” In announcing the ruling, the Judge stated: “that the trial court committed error in any of its other pretrial or trial rulings, we discern no basis to find that any such errors constituted harmful error.”
This case relates to October 24, 2011, when plaintiff James Carifi, then a captain in the Parsippany-Troy Hills Police Department (the PD), filed a complaint in the Law Division asserting various causes of action related to his employment. By the time of trial, only the plaintiff’s whistleblower claim remained, alleging defendants violated the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA).
This action (Carifi I) was the first of three lawsuits involving the plaintiff and the Township. In Carifi II, filed in October 2013, the Township sued the plaintiff for breach of contract, Township of Parsippany-Troy Hills v. Carifi, No. MRS-L-2604-13; in that suit, the Township alleged plaintiff wrongfully refused to repay the tuition for his graduate degree, after he did not remain employed as an officer for two years after receiving his degree. Carifi II settled before trial. On December 26, 2014, the plaintiff filed suit in Carifi v. Barberio, Inglesino, et al., MRS-L-3140-14 (Carifi III); in that action, the plaintiff alleged tortious conduct against the Township and four other defendants. On August 28, 2017, the Law Division granted dismissal motions filed by each defendant, after determining the plaintiff’s complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.
Plaintiff then appealed the dismissal of Carifi III (A-0597-17); in a separate opinion issued simultaneously with this opinion, and the Courts affirm the dismissal of Carifi III. Attorney Christopher Deininger, representing James Carifi said an appeal to the New Jersey Supreme Court is being considered.