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Fasano v. Gassert

Decided: January 24, 1958.

ANTHONY FASANO
v.
FREDERICK J. GASSERT, JR., DIRECTOR OF MOTOR VEHICLES OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, CONSOLIDATED WITH ESSEX COUNTY COURT DOCKET NO. 99752, CARMINE PAGLIA V. GERTRUDE MADISON AND PIERCE MADISON



Waugh, J.s.c.

Waugh

I now have before me applications for payment of judgment in each of the above two cases in accordance with N.J.S.A. 39:6-69, 70, 71 and 84. The Fasano action was brought against the Director of Motor Vehicles in accordance with the procedure to be followed in "hit and run" cases, while the Paglia case is against an identified but uninsured, judgment-proof driver. In both cases plaintiffs proceeded to judgment and then applied to this court for orders under N.J.S.A. 39:6-71 (in the Paglia case) and N.J.S.A. 39:6-84 (in the Fasano case) directed to the Treasurer, requiring him to make payment from the Fund of such amounts as shall be due the plaintiffs in accordance with the terms of the Unsatisfied Claim and Judgment Fund Act.

In both cases it was found by the court at the hearing on application for payment of judgment that all conditions precedent had been met and that plaintiffs were entitled to such an order, but contest then arose as to the amount due from the Fund under the terms of the statute.

In the Fasano case, the Board urged payment of the $5,000 judgment as follows: $5,000, less $884 temporary disability benefits, less $430.85 hospitalization, less $362 medical-surgical, less the $200 statutory deduction.

In the Paglia case, the Board urged payment of the $2,500 judgment, less $359 medical-surgical, less $149 hospitalization, less the $200 statutory deduction.

The plaintiffs contended that with the exception of the $200 statutory deductions, all other deductions urged by the Board deprived the plaintiffs of their constitutional rights. The court ordered payment of the uncontested sums and further hearing was set as to the constitutionality of the other deductions and, pursuant to Rule 4:37-2, the Attorney-General of the State of New Jersey intervened.

The Fund contends that deduction of temporary disability benefits, medical-surgical and hospitalization payments received in connection with the accident-caused injuries is proper under the terms of N.J.S.A. 39:6-70(m), 71, 73, 84. Reference to these sections and, in particular, to N.J.S.A. 39:6-71 (order for payment of judgment) indicates that

"* * * any amount for compensation or indemnity for damages or other benefits which plaintiff has received or can collect from any person other than the judgment debtor shall be deducted from the amount due upon the judgment for payment of which claim is made." (Emphasis added)

Obviously, the Fund urges that the disputed deductions fall under the category of "other benefits."

Plaintiffs, on the other hand, set forth two constitutional objections: (A) The unreasonable classification by the statute of claimants against the Fund into two groups -- those who provide themselves with "other benefits" and those who do not, at their own instance, maintain "other benefits" -- and the resulting unequal treatment of those in the former group. (B) The delegation by the Legislature to the Fund Board of the power to interpret "other benefits" without the guide of sufficient standards.

As to the first objection, (A), it is clear that the classification is not unreasonable and does not deprive the prudent who independently seek to spread their risks of the equal protection of the laws. Certain it is that their recovery from the Fund will be unequal compared to those who fail to provide themselves with "other benefits," but their total compensation from all sources will not be unequal. The Legislature, in enacting the Unsatisfied Claim and Judgment Fund Act, need not provide equal assistance for all those affected by injury on our highways. It may, as in the instant statute, strike at the evil where it is most felt by providing ...


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