Our previous post on this matter can be found here.
In a move that should come as a surprise to very few, a federal judge in Newark has dismissed the products liability suit filed against the manufacturer of the Alcotest, New Jersey’s DWI breath-testing instrument.
… Judge Linares found that the Plaintiffs were seeking an impermissible rehearing of their DWI cases in federal court.
As discussed in a previous post, a class action suit was filed in District Court in Newark on April 16, 2013 on behalf of all New Jersey defendants convicted of DWI based on Alcotest results. The suit was originally filed in the form of a tort action against Draeger, the manufacturer of the device; on July 19, 2013 U.S. District Judge Jose Linares dismissed the action.
Plaintiffs’ counsel then filed an amended complaint seeking relief under the Products Liability Act, alleging that the Alcotest has a design defect – specifically, that the device has no means of calibrating measurements of how long suspected drunken drivers blow into it. On October 28, 2013 Judge Linares dismissed the amended complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, which bars a federal suit where the claim was actually litigated in a state court or is inextricably intertwined with the state litigation.
In Johnson v. Draeger Safety Diagnostics, Judge Linares held that any “injuries” sustained by the plaintiffs, in the form of a DWI conviction and all attendant consequences, were not caused by Draeger or the Alcotest, but rather “by the state court judgments upon which their criminal [sic] convictions were based.” A finding that the Alcotest contains a defect “would effectively prevent enforcement of the state court’s orders,” a scenario prohibited under Rooker-Feldman.
By Christopher G. Hewitt, Esq.