Matthews v. Bay Head Improvement Association

471 A.2d 355 (1984)

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Matthews v. Bay Head Improvement Association

New Jersey Supreme Court
471 A.2d 355 (1984)

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Facts

Bay Head, New Jersey, was a town on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. The Bay Head Improvement Association (association) (defendant) was a nonprofit entity that owned portions of the only beach in Bay Head. The association hired people to lifeguard, clean the beach, and police the beach. During daytime hours in the summer, the association limited beach access to its members. With some limited exceptions, association membership was generally limited to town residents. Thus, during the summer, most nonresidents were not allowed to use any beach in Bay Head unless they knew a resident member. Virginia Matthews (plaintiff) was a resident of Point Pleasant, a town that bordered Bay Head. Matthews sued the association to gain access to the Bay Head beach. The public advocate of New Jersey joined her lawsuit, arguing that the public-trust doctrine gave the public a right to be on the association’s beach to access public waters. The trial court ruled for the association. The appellate court affirmed the ruling. The New Jersey Supreme Court granted review.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Schreiber, J.)

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