Class-action suit filed over bridge
By JOSE DELREAL
January 9, 2014
A class-action complaint has been filed in federal court against top government officials connected to the George Washington Bridge scandal, the Fort Lee, N.J., attorney behind the move said Thursday.
The complaint — filed in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey by attorney Rosemarie Arnold — takes aim at key players in the controversy, naming Republican Gov. Chris Christie, his formeraide Bridget Kelly, former Port Authority officials Bill Baroni and David Wildstein, the state of New Jersey and the Port Authority as defendants.
As a class action, the exact number of members has not yet been determined, but according to the filing, it “includes any and all individuals and business owners” who were inconvenienced or hurt by the lane closures between Sept. 9 and Sept. 13. According to Arnold, the plaintiffs work or live in or near Fort Lee or New York City and are citing economic damages by the lane closures.
The complaint follows a whirlwind week for Christie, who said in a press conference Thursday that he was blindsided by a report in The Record that said senior members of his staff were connected with the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge.
Arnold, who officially filed the complaint Thursday, said she was first contacted by potential plaintiffs about suing back in September when allegations surfaced that the closures were politically motivated. At the time, however, she was hesitant to move forward because of a lack of evidence. Following the revelation that top Christie aides were connected to the closures, she now feels confident moving forward.
“At the time, I said, ‘You know, you have to be able to prove it. You can’t have these unsubstantiated allegations,’” Arnold said. “Now I think we have what we need. This is not a situation that complies with the 14th Amendment.”
Moving forward, the class listed in the complaint has to be certified by meeting certain criteria; Arnold said she is “100 percent” certain those steps will be cleared.
Arnold also stressed that her clients were not merely “inconvenienced” by the road closures.
“I have a client that suffers from panic attacks. And while she was stuck in this traffic, she started to have a panic attack. She and her husband were just trapped like rats,” Arnold said. “She walked out of the car, she threw up, and then she just wanted to leave, but she couldn’t walk home. The traffic was disastrous. And this was a deliberate attempt. This was the desired result of the political motivated closure.”