New Jersey “Bridgegate” spawns class action

April 7, 2014 by

Fotolia CarThe plaintiffs in a putative class action filed in the wake of New Jersey’s “Bridgegate” controversy asked a federal judge to certify a class of more than a million commuters and businesses that allegedly suffered because of the politically motivated lane closures.

In a brief supporting its motion for certification, the plaintiffs argued a class action suit was the best way to handle the suit filed against the state of New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie, the Port Authority ofNew York and New Jersey and several Christie Administration and Port Authority executives, because of the sheer number of potential class members, which would include all of the 918,888 residents and 106,754 businesses of Bergen County, N.J., in addition to 105,000 EZ-Pass commuters who travel eastbound on the George Washington Bridge, the target of September’s eastbound lane closures.

That affected class, totals just more than 1.1 million potential class members.

The named plaintiffs filed suit in January, including six Fort Lee-area commuters, three companies — including Liberty News Inc. along with one of its newspaper delivery drivers.

The suit is one of two putative class actions filed over the lane closures, which caused extreme traffic delays in Fort Lee between Sept. 9-13.

The other action filed in state Superior Court by a group of New Jersey car companies, said the lane closures resulted in lost jobs and compensation, drivers being falsely imprisoned in their vehicles and other economic, physical and emotional harm, the suit said.

The nine named plaintiffs in that suit also include two Fort Lee residents and an Old Tappan, N.J., resident who uses the bridge to commute to work. The proposed class covers all those who wasted gas and lost time in the gridlock from in Fort Lee and neighboring towns, or when they tried to cross the bridge.

State officials had blamed the lane closures on a traffic study, but records show Christie associates were involved in the plans and the response to inquires that ensued.

For example, an Aug. 13 email from former Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly to then-Port Authority director of interstate capital projects David Wildstein, said “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Fort Lee’s Mayor Sokolich, a Democrat, didn’t endorse Christie for re-election.

One month later, Wildstein, who was a Christie appointee, fumed in a Sept. 13 email exchange with Kelly that “the New York side gave Fort Lee back all three lanes this morning.”

“We are appropriately going nuts. Samson helping us to retaliate,” Wildstein said in an apparent reference to Port Authority Chairman David Samson, another Christie appointee.

Former Christie campaign manager Bill Stepien called Fort Lee’s mayor an “idiot” in a Sept. 18 email exchange with Wildstein. Wildstein, Kelly and Stepien are named in both suits, as is Bill Baroni, Christie’s top executive appointee at the Port Authority.

The governor himself has denied involvement.

Steve Larson
An experienced trial lawyer who handles both hourly and contingent fee cases, Steve has expertise in class actions, consumer cases, antitrust litigation, securities litigation, corporate disputes, intellectual property disputes, unfair competition claims, employment matters, and disputes involving family wealth. Steve regularly represents individuals and businesses in federal and state court and has obtained class-wide recovery in multiple class actions. A veteran practitioner, Steve's clients value his creative approach to resolving complex litigation matters.

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