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Rusk v. Jeffries

Decided: January 31, 1933.

GEORGE RUSK, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
MILDRED L. JEFFRIES AND WALTER JEFRIES, JOINTLY, SEVERALLY AND IN THE ALTERNATIVE, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS



On appeal from the Atlantic County Circuit Court.

For the defendants-appellants, Thompson & Hanstein.

For the plaintiff-respondent, John Rauffenbart.

Wells

The opinion of the court was delivered by

WELLS, J. This is an appeal by the defendants from a judgment in favor of the plaintiff, entered upon the verdict of a jury, in the Atlantic County Circuit Court.

The plaintiff was a policeman of the city of Ventnor City.

On December 22d, 1930, about nine-thirty P.M., while on duty, he was walking easterly along Ventnor avenue and while crossing Troy avenue, at the intersection of Ventnor avenue, a collision occurred between plaintiff and an automobile operated by the defendant Mildred L. Jeffries, the daughter of the defendant Walter Jeffries. As a result of the accident, plaintiff suffered injuries disabling him from performing, in the future, his duties as a policeman.

Defendant Walter Jeffries was sued as the owner of the car, and Mildred L. Jeffries was sued as his agent in the operation of the car.

The defense was that the accident was caused solely by the negligence of the plaintiff and the plaintiff's negligence contributed to the accident.

Appellants allege three grounds of appeal.

The first: "Because the court refused to admit testimony on behalf of the defendants to show that the plaintiff had been pensioned as a police officer of Ventnor City, and as such is receiving from the pension fund of the police and fire departments of Ventnor City a certain sum per month, it having been admitted by the plaintiff that the Pension act had been adopted by the city of Ventnor City, to which an exception was duly taken."

The appellants contend that the pension was a part of the compensation received by the plaintiff for his services as a police officer; that the money was no gratuity paid to him by the city, but a binding obligation of the city; that it was not in the nature of insurance, the premium of which plaintiff had paid, but was payable to him by law from the city. In other words, that plaintiff's salary consisted not only of a stipulated sum which he was to receive while in service, but also of a further sum which he was to receive after retirement, and that consequently, inasmuch as the plaintiff proved

as a measure of his damages his salary and the loss thereof, the defendants should have been permitted to show that the plaintiff had in fact not lost the full amount of salary but only such part thereof as was in excess of the pension received by him.

In support of that contention the appellants cite Hayes v. Hoboken, 93 N.J.L. 432, in which Mr. Justice Black, speaking for this court, said: "The moneys paid for pensions are a part of the compensation to be paid for the services rendered by members of the force and are an inducing cause to their enlistments;" and also a New York decision (Drink-water v. Dinsmore, 80 N.Y. 390), wherein the plaintiff, having been injured and unable to work was nevertheless paid his wages continuously by his employer, the holding of the New York court being that the defendant had the right to show that the plaintiff had lost no wages or that the wages were not as much as he had claimed, and that the defendant had the right "to show, if he could, that for some particular reason the plaintiff would not have earned any wages if he had not been injured, or that he was under such a contract with his employer that his wages went on without services, or that his employer paid his wages from mere benevolence."

Attorney of respondent cites on his brief numerous decisions from the New York courts. We think the case of Geary v. Metropolitan Street Railway Co., 73 App. Div. 441; 77 N.Y. Supp. 54, is more applicable to the case now under consideration, where it was said:

"It is further contended that there are prejudicial errors in the reception of evidence and in the instructions to the jury upon the question of damages. The decedent was earning a salary of $1,400 per annum. It appeared that under the pension provisions of the Greater City Charter, the decedent's widow was receiving $700 per annum. The court instructed the jury that in assessing the damages they should not take into consideration this pension which the widow was ...


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