On appeal from the Supreme Court.
For the appellant, Collins & Corbin (Edward A. Markley and Charles W. Broadhurst, of counsel).
For the respondent, Quinn, Parsons & Doremus (Theodore D. Parsons, of counsel).
The opinion of the court was delivered by
PERSKIE, J. The question involved, in this case, concerns the tort liability of a charitable (hospital) institution. Respondent, plaintiff below, recovered a judgment, based on a jury verdict, against appellant, defendant below, in the sum of $12,000 for the injuries which he sustained as a result of the alleged negligence of the defendant in the premises. Upon a rule to show cause, allowed on the ground of excessive damages, it was reduced to $9,750 and was accepted by the plaintiff.
Various results, depending upon the particular theory adopted, have been reached by the courts of our sister states on the question of the liability of charitable institutions for its torts. It will serve no particular useful purpose here to recollate the illustrative cases. Suffice it to say that the holdings of these cases have been thus summarized:
"* * * a number of states have, following the English dicta, exempted charities from all tort liability against beneficiaries as well as others on the ground that public policy demands that the trust fund be not diverted to paying damages. The great majority of courts, however, do justice to employes, strangers and invitees by holding the charity to the same degree of care exacted from other entities. In regard to beneficiaries they hold the charity liable for injuries resulting from the negligence of the trustees or managers in selecting incompetent servants, but not for the negligence of servants carefully selected." See 19 Michigan Law Review 395, 412; 77 U. of P. Law Review No. 2, p. 191.
In our state we have adopted and followed, what we believe to be the majority view, i.e., the public policy theory. Thus
we deny the right of recovery on the part of those who have a valid claim against a charitable institution, based on actionable negligence, but who are either the recipients of the benefactions, or the beneficiaries of the charitable institution sought to be held liable; but we permit the right of recovery against charitable institutions, for their actionable negligence, on the part of "those unconcerned in and unrelated to that which the donor brought into being and supports in its operation." Simmons v. Wiley Methodist Episcopal Church, 112 N.J.L. 129; 170 A. 237.
Based on these principles we have denied the right of recovery in a suit by a patient against the hospital. D'Amato v. Orange Memorial Hospital, 101 N.J.L. 61; 127 A. 340; and we have likewise denied the right of recovery in a suit by a mother against a hospital for injuries sustained while visiting her daughter who was a patient therein. Boeckel v. Orange Memorial Hospital, 108 N.J.L. 453; affirmed, 110 Id. 509; 158 A. 832; affirmed, 166 Id. 146. On the other hand, we have permitted the right of recovery by one "unconcerned in and unrelated to the charitable institution." Simmons v. Wiley Methodist Episcopal Church, supra (suit for injuries sustained by plaintiff while on the highway as a result of the negligent operation of a truck belonging to the church).
It obviously, therefore, becomes necessary to recur to the question of the relation of the plaintiff to the hospital at the time of the accident. What was his status? It is clear that he was not personally the recipient of the benefactions of the hospital. Was he, however, a beneficiary of its benefactions, or was he "unconcerned in and unrelated to" the hospital and its operation? A beneficiary is defined as "the recipient of another's bounty; one who received a benefit or advantage." 7 C.J. 1133, 1134. Judicial construction and application of that term, in this class of cases, finds perfect expression in the Boeckel case.
In the case at bar, the facts, on the point of the relation of the plaintiff to the hospital, are not in dispute. They are these: Plaintiff was a ...