Presented by the Public Entity & Civil Rights Litigation Practice Group

Failure to Complete Public Entity’s Official Notice of Tort Claim Form Not Substantial Compliance

In Gartenberg v. City of Hackensack, the plaintiff fell and was injured while walking on a sidewalk and alleged that the sidewalk was dilapidated, causing her to fall.

The plaintiff filed a notice of claim against the City of Hackensack but failed to fill out the approved official notice of tort claim form. The defendant acknowledged receipt of the notice but notified plaintiff’s counsel that it would not accept the notice as properly filed. The defendant also informed plaintiff’s counsel that only a completed official city form would be accepted as proper notice of the claim. Plaintiff’s counsel failed to complete the official notice of claim within the required time frame under the Tort Claims Act (TCA).

Thereafter, the plaintiff filed a notice of motion to be permitted to file a late notice of claim or a finding that extraordinary circumstances existed for the filing of a late notice of tort claim. The trial court denied the motion. The plaintiff appealed. 

The Appellate Court analyzed the statute and case law as to whether the plaintiff had substantially complied with the notice requirements of the TCA, even though the official notice of tort claim was not filed. The Appellate Division held that the plaintiff failed to comply with the notice requirements since the notice she provided the City of Hackensack failed to give the City of Hackensack sufficient information to investigate the claim, evaluate the claim and prepare its defense. Moreover, the plaintiff’s injuries were not severe or debilitating to prevent her from pursuing her claim and, thus, did not establish extraordinary circumstances to be permitted to file a late notice of claim. As a result, the Appellate Division affirmed the dismissal of the case. 

It is important to consult an attorney regarding all available defenses under the Tort Claims Act if your public entity or your public employee has been sued. Please do not hesitate to contact me to discuss any issue under the Tort Claims Act. I can be reached at 856-414-6048, or please email me at


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