Harassment Suit Against New Jersey Local Continues

The 10-year legal saga of three N.J. women who sued Int’l Union of Operating Engineers Local 825 union for the sexual taunts they endured crossing a picket line just won’t die. It had crept through the N.J. courts before the plaintiffs finally settled for $400,000 in Dec. 1999

On Feb. 18, the trial court entered an order enforcing the settlement. The settlement “constitutes a full and final resolution of the entire controversy,” N.J. Superior Court Judge Catherine Langlois wrote.

However, Langlois’ order required the plaintiffs to prepare a statement releasing the defendant of all claims, including attorneys’ fees. That left room for the lawyers to quibble over the wording. Defense attorney William Riina wants it to state that “I specifically release, waive and give up claims for compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, costs, disbursements and any and all other elements.” But two of the plaintiffs — Christine Baliko and Kelly Carroll, who hired Theodore Geiser to assert their right to get a separate payout from the defense to cover counsel fees — signed releases that state that “all liens, costs, charges, fees, disbursements and expenses…will be paid from the proceeds of this settlement.”

The wording nuance prompted another defense motion on Mar. 8, insisting that the release include the defense’s phrasing. Geiser responded in a letter to Langlois that the order was compelling the plaintiffs to “waive a right which they and I believe they have.” Riina returns to court Mar. 31 seeking enforcement of the Feb. 18 order, including the precisely worded release.  [N.J. Law J. Mar. 20, 2000]