FORT LEE, N.J. — Four-hour delays. Late for work. Lost wages. Late for crucial doctor’s appointments.
Some of these alleged hardships are at the heart of a proposed class-action complaint in the burgeoning George Washington Bridge scandal. The complaint was filed last Thursday, the day after new revelations tying the administration of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie administration to the lane closures.
The complaint was filed on behalf of six local residents, but other potential plaintiffs are lining up, said Rosemarie Arnold, the personal-injury lawyer behind the potential class-action lawsuit.
Arnold told Business Insider in an interview on Tuesday that she was initially approach by a client in September, when the lanes were closed for a four-day stretch. Now that Christie has apologized for the incident, Arnold said that the lawsuit has slam-dunk potential.
One of her clients, she said, claims she had panic attacks from sitting in the gridlock. That client, Arnold said, also cited the closeness to the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as a contributor to the panic attack. Others said they were late for work and lost hourly wages.
Since she filed the complaint last Thursday, others have called, including a newspaper delivery business that said it was unable to complete its deliveries and students who were late to or missed classes in New York. Four more clients came calling saying they’d had panic attacks.
“Not only are there emails saying that this was done on purpose, but Gov. Christie came to Fort Lee and announced at a press conference that the actions were purposeful, that they were stupid, and that it was his fault,” Arnold told Business Insider.
Legal experts say the case will be a fascinating one to watch. It employs clauses of the U.S. Constitution — namely, the 14th Amendment and its Privileges and Immunities clause — that normally are not used in a proposed class-action suit.
David Noll, a law professor at Rutgers, told Business Insider that the use of the Privileges and Immunities clause harkens back to Civil War-era arguments. The clause is meant to infer a right of free travel between states. In this case — since there is documentation of citizens being stalled from travelling between states — it’s not a completely implausible claim to make, Noll said.
“You never, never see this clause invoked,” he said. “That said, the legal theory isn’t at all a loser.”
A winning case may be more likely, Noll and other legal experts said, as a group of individual lawsuits rather than a proposed class action. They expressed scepticism that the suit would be certified as a class action.
Arnold, however, thinks the case has a “100% chance of success.” And she made a point of saying that she has no political motivation in the suit — she’s a Republican.
“I have no political motivation whatsoever when I do my job,” Arnold told Business Insider. “I am a victims’ rights advocate, and my goal is to protect the rights of innocent victims — and most times, to get them money.”
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