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Minardi v. Dupont

Decided: March 3, 1958.

DOMINICK MINARDI AND MARY ANN MINARDI, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
CHARLES J. DUPONT, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT, AND WILLIAM DILL, DEFENDANT



Price, Haneman and Schettino. The opinion of the court was delivered by Schettino, J.A.D.

Schettino

Appeal is taken from an order of a trial court which deducted certain money credits received by plaintiff, Dominick Minardi, for temporary disability, health and accident, surgical expenses and Blue Cross hospital bills from the maximum payment which this plaintiff was entitled to receive from the Unsatisfied Claim and Judgment Fund pursuant to N.J.S.A. 39:6-61 et seq.

Plaintiff, Dominick Minardi, obtained against the uninsured defendant, Dupont, a judgment of $35,000 arising from an automobile accident and applied, in accord with the procedures provided by the statute, for payment out of the Fund. In conformity with N.J.S.A. 39:6-70(m), at the hearing on the application for payment of the judgment, this plaintiff testified receipt of payments of $1,054.29 upon an insurance policy for loss of wages caused by disability, of $248.57 from a health and accident policy, of $275 for surgical services from medical and surgical insurance and finally of $1,546.01 from the Blue Cross for hospital bills. The total of $3,123.87 was deducted from the assumed maximum amount payable of $4,800 and thus the trial court awarded plaintiff $1,676.13.

When the briefs were filed this case involved a question of novel impression. Some facets of the problem were disposed of by an opinion of the Supreme Court in Dixon v. Gassert , 26 N.J. 1 (1958). At oral argument plaintiff's counsel advocated a distinction which we will discuss later.

All concede that the basic legislative policy is to provide at least some limited protection for an innocent victim of an uninsured driver under certain safeguards.

The first relevant statutory provision is N.J.S.A. 39:6-71, entitled "Order for payment of judgment," and provides in part:

"The court shall make an order directed to the treasurer requiring him to make payment from the fund of such sum, if any, as it shall find to be payable upon said claim, pursuant to the provisions of and in accordance with the limitations contained in this act, if the court is satisfied, upon the hearing:

Any amount for compensation or indemnity for damages or other benefits which the 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."

N.J.S.A. 39:6-73, entitled "Limitation on amounts payable from fund," provides in part:

"No order shall be made for the payment, and the treasurer shall make no payment, out of the fund, of

(b) The first two hundred dollars ($200.00) of any judgment or of the unsatisfied portion thereof, or

(c) The unsatisfied portion of any judgment which, after deducting two hundred dollars ($200.00) therefrom, exceeds

(1) the maximum or limit of five thousand dollars ($5,000.00), exclusive of interest and costs, on account of injury to, or death of, one person in any one accident, and

Provided, that such maximum amounts shall be reduced by any amount received or recovered as specified in sub-paragraph (m) of section ten [39:6-70(m)]."

We note that no issue was raised or argued on the narrow question of whether, under the admitted facts of this case, the $200 is deducted from the total judgment or from the maximum amount of $5,000 recoverable from the Fund. Both attorneys assumed the $200 is deducted from the $5,000 and that, therefore, the highest amount recoverable was $4,800. In view of the ambiguities inherent in this statute, we would have to have submitted to us not only counsels' research and argument but also evidence of the practice by

the Fund agency. The contemporaneous practical construction of a statute by a state agency charged with its administration is entitled to weight in interpreting the statute. In re Borough of Glen Rock , 25 N.J. 241, 246, 250 (1957); Lane v. Holderman , 23 N.J. 304, 322 (1957); Lloyd v. Vermeulen , 22 ...


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