In early June the New Jersey Supreme Court decided Potente v. County of Hudson, in which the plaintiff sued his employer for handicap discrimination under the LAD. Among the holdings of this case: (1) prejudgment interest is a remedy that is available to plaintiffs in LAD cases; (2) prejudgment interest is available against public entity defendants in LAD cases.
Of interest primarily to lawyers, the Supreme Court reversed a directed verdict for the defendant in this case. It did so by finding that reasonable minds could differ about whether the defendant engaged in a discussion with plaintiff on the subject of reasonable accommodation. In a “he said, she said” dispute over the facts, the Court found that the plaintiff's denial that such a conversation took place raised a question of fact that had to be resolved by a jury.
What's the impact on business? First, the stakes in LAD cases just got higher, since prejudgment interest over time can add up to a lot of money. Second, public entities no longer can argue that they are exempt from prejudgment interest. Third, cases just got a little easier for plaintiffs to prove. All of these are things that should be considered early on when businesses decide whether and how to defend against LAD cases.