Appellate Division Rules BPU Did Not Have Exclusive Primary Jurisdiction Over Negligence Claims

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Appellate Division Rules BPU Did Not Have Exclusive Primary Jurisdiction Over Negligence Claims

by Dennis C. Linken on July 19, 2013

The doctrine of primary jurisdiction, pursuant to which courts defer to administrative agencies, has been widely recognized for years. The doctrine is based upon the expertise of administrative agencies, developed through their exclusive jurisdiction, particularly where the subject matter is highly technical.

The doctrine is frequently applied in cases involving the Board of Public Utilities (“BPU” or “Board”). This is especially true given the highly complex nature of the Board’s jurisdiction, pertaining to, for example, the transmission and distribution of electric energy. Application of the doctrine is not universal, however, and there are situations in which a court will choose to retain the matter itself, rather than defer to the BPU. Such was the case in Chickara v. Jersey Central Power & Light Co., ___ App. Div. ____ (2013).

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