On appeal from an order of the Superior Court, Law Division, certified in the Supreme Court on its own motion prior to hearing in the Appellate Division.
For affirmance -- Chief Justice Weintraub, and Justices Heher, Wachenfeld, Burling, Jacobs, Francis and Proctor. For reversal -- None. The opinion of the court was delivered by Proctor, J.
This appeal presents for determination the effect and meaning of certain provisions of the Unsatisfied Claim and Judgment Fund Law. N.J.S.A. 39:6-61 et seq. Specifically, the question is whether payments made under an accident and health policy, and payments made by "Blue Cross" under a hospitalization contract, constitute "indemnity or other benefits" which are deductible from the maximum amount payable to a claimant pursuant to N.J.S.A. 39:6-70(m) and N.J.S.A. 39:6-84.
On November 12, 1955 plaintiffs Edgar I. Dixon and Louise Gales, both residents of New Jersey, while standing on a public street in Camden, were struck by a motor vehicle, thereby sustaining personal injuries. The motor vehicle continued on its way, and its identity and the identity of its owner and operator could not be ascertained. Thereafter, plaintiffs brought an action in the Superior Court, Law Division, against the defendant, the Director of the Division of Motor Vehicles, in accordance with N.J.S.A. 39:6-78 which prescribes the remedy for the relief of "hit-and-run"
victims. After trial and jury verdicts, judgments were entered against the Director in the amount of $25,000 for Dixon and $10,000 for Mrs. Gales.
Upon appropriate proceedings as prescribed by N.J.S.A. 39:6-84 the court issued an order directing the State Treasurer, acting as Custodian of the Unsatisfied Claim and Judgment Fund, to make payments out of the Fund of $2,791.55 to Dixon and $5,000 to Mrs. Gales, plus costs. N.J.S.A. 39:6-84 limits the maximum amount payable to a claimant out of the Fund to $5,000. The court's order limiting Dixon's recovery to $2,791.55 was based on its finding that he had already received payments and benefits amounting to $2,208.45 for his injuries and that these payments should be deducted from the $5,000 maximum. The payments deducted consisted of the following items:
"(a) 26 weekly payments of $35.00 each, amounting in all to $910.00, paid to said Dixon by the John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company under a certain accident and health insurance policy furnished and paid for by his employer, National Waterproof Papers, Inc., C.T.C. Industries, Inc., at no expense to the employees, said payments being made by the Insurance Company during part of the period said Dixon was disabled and unable to pursue his employment because of the injuries suffered by him in said accident;
(b) $250.00 medical payments paid by John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company under a certain Group Policy No. 54705-GTC., issued to said Dixon's employer, National Waterproof Papers, Inc., C.T.C. Industries, Inc., furnished and paid for by said employer at no expense to the employees, said payment being made by the Insurance Company to Dr. George Grenhart for medical treatment rendered to said Dixon because of the injuries suffered by him in said accident.
(c) $1,048.45 paid by 'Blue Cross', that is, The Associated Hospital Service of Philadelphia, to the West Jersey Hospital, Camden, New Jersey, on account of the hospital bill to said Dixon for services rendered him because of the injuries suffered by him in said accident, the cost of which 'Blue Cross' coverage was paid entirely by said Dixon."
Dixon alone has appealed contending that he was entitled to the maximum of $5,000 under N.J.S.A. 39:6-84 and that the deduction of the above mentioned payments was improper.
While the case was pending in the Appellate Division we certified it ...