Class Actions Mount Over Damages From Bridge Lane Closure Gridlock
The scandal over the closure of local Fort Lee access lanes to the George Washington Bridge last September orchestrated by Gov. Chris Christie’s aides and appointees has spilled into the courts, as class-action suits are being lodged by people and businesses claiming they were damaged by the gridlock.
The suits come as the state Legislature and the U.S. Attorney’s Office are investigating the closures, which are alleged to have been political payback against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat, for not endorsing Christie’s reelection last fall.
The first, Galicki v. State of New Jersey, was filed in federal court in Newark on Jan. 9, against Christie, his former deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly, the state, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the bridge.
Also named were two former Port Authority employees, both Christie appointees, who resigned last month over the scandal: Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni and Director of Interstate Capital Projects David Wildstein.
Six individual plaintiffs claim they were adversely impacted by the lane closings, which took place on Sept. 9 through 15, including Kim Joscelyn, identified as an hourly employee of Rosemarie Arnold’s Fort Lee law firm, which filed the suit.
Residents of Fort Lee or nearby towns, they were en route to their jobs on those days—four of them by traversing the bridge to New York City, the complaint says.
All claim they became trapped in Fort Lee traffic, delaying their arrival at work and resulting in lost wages for two of them.
They have sued for violation of the due process and privileges and immunities clauses of the U.S. Constitution, saying they were deprived of life, liberty and property and their right of free ingress into and egress out of other states.
They also assert tort claims: negligent hiring and retention against Christie, the state and the Port Authority and breach of a duty to refrain from using a political position for purposes of retaliation, against all defendants.
They seek to represent a class defined as thousands of individuals and business owners who sustained economic, physical or psychological injury as a result of the clogged Fort Lee traffic.