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Garford Trucking, Inc. v. Hoffman

Decided: March 27, 1935.


On certiorari.

For the prosecutor, Morris Spritzer.

For the respondent, David T. Wilentz, attorney-general.

Before Justices Heher and Perskie.


The opinion of the court was delivered by

PERSKIE, J. The writ brings up for review the revocation of the registration certificates, then in the name of the prosecutor, pursuant to chapter 116 (Pamph. L. 1929, p. 195; amended by chapter 169 (Pamph. L. 1931, p. 334). Financial Responsibility law.)

Section 1(A) of the act, as amended, provides, inter alia, as follows:

"The Commissioner of Motor Vehicles * * * shall require from any person who * * * while operating any motor vehicle, shall have been concerned in any motor vehicle accident resulting in the death of, or injury to, any person, or damage to property to the extent of at least one hundred dollars ($100.00), or in the discretion of the commissioner from the person in whose name such motor vehicle is registered, or both * * * proof of financial responsibility to satisfy any claim for damage by reason of personal injuries to, or the death of, any one person of at least five thousand dollars ($5,000.00) or by reason of personal injuries to, or the death of, more than one person on account of any such accident, of at least ten thousand dollars ($10,000), and for damages to property of at least one thousand dollars ($1,000). * * * If any person shall fail to furnish such proof, said commissioner shall, until such proof be furnished, suspend or revoke the license of such person to operate a motor vehicle or refuse to return any license which shall have been suspended or revoked, or suspend or revoke the registration of any such motor vehicle, or refuse thereafter to register any motor vehicle transferred by him if it shall not appear to said commissioner's satisfaction that such transfer is a bona fide sale * * *." (Italics ours.)

Section B of the same act provides for the "forthwith suspension" of a license by the commissioner upon receiving a certified copy of a transcript of final judgment against the holder of a license, from the court in which it was recorded, and which judgment remains unsatisfied more than thirty days after the same shall become final and within which time no appeal of said judgment has been taken, &c.; "and shall remain so suspended and shall not be renewed, nor shall any motor vehicle be thereafter registered in his name while any such judgment remains unstayed, unsatisfied and subsisting and until every such judgment is satisfied or discharged and until the said person gives proof of his ability to respond in damages as required in this act, for future accidents. * * *" (Italics ours.)

On October 24th, 1932, one John A. Wickstrom obtained

a judgment against Anton, Ignatz and Joseph Krosnowski, individually and trading as Garford Trucking Company, in the Middlesex County Circuit Court, for $2,500 for injuries sustained by him, as a result of an automobile collision in July, 1931, with a motor truck belonging to the aforesaid firm. The judgment remaining unsatisfied, the clerk of Middlesex county forwarded a certified copy of the said judgment to the commissioner.

On April 12th, 1932, Anton, Ignatz and Joseph Krosnowski incorporated, under the laws of our state, using the corporate name of Garford Trucking, Incorporated. The eleven automobile trucks, the licenses for which are the subject-matters of this case, were transferred by the aforesaid judgment debtors to the corporation, the prosecutor herein. All of the transfers were made after the accident and some after the date of the judgment. Some payment had been made by them on account of the judgment but at the time of the revocations complained of a substantial part thereof remained unpaid.

Thereupon the commissioner advised the prosecutor that, by reason of the unpaid judgment against the judgment debtors, it would be obliged to show cause why the registration certificates heretofore obtained by the prosecutor should not be revoked. He fixed December 6th, 1933, at his offices, in Trenton, New Jersey, as the time and place where he would conduct a hearing. At the hearing prosecutor was represented by counsel. The deputy commissioner announced that he was ready to hear the evidence on the part of the prosecutor. Counsel for the prosecutor objected to the procedure, and urged that his client was entitled to have first presented the witnesses and proofs upon which respondent contended that the ownership of the trucks by prosecutor was not bona fide and that he was entitled to the right of cross-examination and not until these rights were observed would he offer any testimony. The deputy commissioner then stated that the records in his office, in this matter, included, among other things, the transcript of the unpaid judgment against the judgment debtors; that prosecutor's

certificate of incorporation disclosed that the incorporators thereof were the same three persons against whom the judgment had been recovered and which judgment remains unsatisfied; that the transfer record of certain motor vehicles to the prosecutor, formerly belonging to the incorporators, did not appear to his satisfaction to be bona fide sales. Counsel for prosecutor offered no proof. He did, however, submit a brief restating prosecutor's position in the premises; succinctly stated it is, as it was below, that it is "not a judgment debtor;" that the bona fides of the transfer was a subject to be determined in the Court of Chancery only, and, therefore, the commissioner was without jurisdiction in the premises.

The deputy commissioner concluded that since "there has been no proof of financial responsibility filed by the Garford Trucking Company, Incorporated, or by the individuals trading as the Garford Trucking Company, and judgment has not been satisfied," and "while I do not possess and do not attempt to exercise any judicial authority to determine the rightful ownership of the vehicles, I have concluded that the registration issued and now held in the name of the Garford Trucking Company, Incorporated, should be revoked in accordance with the provisions of chapter 116 (Pamph. L. 1929), not being satisfied that the sale of the vehicles as herein set forth was a bona fide sale, the evidence indicating that the Garford Trucking Company, Incorporated, was organized by the judgment debtors, Anton Krosnowski, Ignatz Krosnowski and Joseph Krosnowski, to evade payment of the judgment and the provisions of the Financial Responsibility law requiring the filing of an insurance certificate." Prosecutor's certificates of registration were revoked.

In support of prosecutor's contention that the revocations were illegal it is urged that the Financial Responsibility act is unconstitutional in that (1) it fails to provide or specify a method of procedure for making it appear to the commissioner's satisfaction that a transfer is a bona fide sale; (2) that it deprives the Court of Chancery ...

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