POINT PLEASANT BEACH — Owners of the Amethyst Beach Motel have filed a notice of tort claim against the borough seeking monetary damages.
The notice claims owner John Fernicola as the injured claimant citing defamatory remarks made against him at a public meeting on March 16.
According to Paul Fernicola, a condemnation attorney representing owners of the Amethyst Beach Motel who is of no relation to his clients, this is the first step in seeking damages against the borough for defamation.
“What it represents is that before you can bring a lawsuit against a municipality for certain causes of action, personal injury, defamation, you have to serve this notice of tort claim and give them six months to investigate,” said Mr. Fernicola.
“You can’t just simply sue a municipality for these types of claims,” said Paul Fernicola. “You have to give them an opportunity to first investigate it.”
The motel previously filed a separate complaint challenging the April 20 adoption of an ordinance to acquire their property either through negotiation or by eminent domain.
The Amethyst owners dispute the borough’s claim that the site is needed for additional parking, stating that it contradicts the 2021 master plan with regard to parking.
The tort claim says Mayor Paul Kanitra made defamatory remarks regarding owner John Fernicola in public.
Those claims are cited in the original complaint to the borough in an affidavit submitted by Councilman Tom Migut on behalf of the Amethyst.
The claim states that emotional distress and potentially other damages may be determined. The group has not determined an amount at the time.
In response to the notice, Point Pleasant Beach Borough Attorney Kevin Riordan told The Ocean Star, “Comments made by governing body members from the dais are privileged and they are not subject to a defamation suit.”
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