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Robson v. Rodriquez

Decided: April 28, 1958.

WILFRED ROBSON, ADMINISTRATOR AD PROSEQUENDUM OF THE ESTATE OF MARY E. ROBSON, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
VICTOR RODRIQUEZ, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT



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.

Proctor

The primary question raised by this appeal is the constitutional validity of N.J.S.A. 39:6-70(d) of the Unsatisfied Claim and Judgment Fund Law, L. 1952, c. 174 (N.J.S.A. 39:6-61 et seq.) which precludes a person who sustains personal injury or property damage caused by a financially irresponsible motorist from receiving payment out of the Fund, if at the time of the accident he was operating or riding in an uninsured motor vehicle owned by him, or his spouse, parent or child.

The plaintiff is the administrator ad prosequendum of Mary E. Robson, who was killed in an automobile accident on June 5, 1955. The accident involved a collision between the automobile owned and operated by the decedent and an automobile owned and operated by Victor Rodriquez. Neither owner carried liability insurance.

The plaintiff, after obtaining a consent judgment against Rodriquez for $5,500, applied to the trial court for an order directing payment of the judgment out of the Fund pursuant to N.J.S.A. 39:6-69. The Fund and the Attorney-General, who appeared for the State as an intervenor, opposed the plaintiff's application on the ground that the decedent was operating an uninsured motor vehicle owned by her, therefore, the plaintiff, as her administrator ad prosequendum, was precluded from recovery by subsection (d). The pertinent provisions of N.J.S.A. 39:6-70 read as follows:

"The court shall proceed upon such application, in a summary manner, and, upon the hearing thereof, the applicant shall be required to show

(d) He was not at the time of the accident, operating or riding in an uninsured motor vehicle owned by him or his spouse, parent or child, and was not operating a motor vehicle in violation of an order of suspension or revocation."

At the hearing below, the plaintiff contended that subsection (d) creates an arbitrary and unreasonable classification which violates the due process and equal protection

clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Federal Constitution; the concept of equality in our State Constitution, and the prohibition of the enactment of certain private, special or local laws; and that the subsection violates the provision of our Constitution that "every law shall embrace but one object, and that shall be expressed in the title." Const. Art. IV, ยง VII, par. 4. Finally, the plaintiff urged that although the subsection purports to prohibit recovery out of the Fund by an applicant who was operating an uninsured vehicle owned by him at the time of the accident, it does not preclude recovery by his personal representative.

The trial court upheld the constitutionality of the statute in all respects and further held that subsection (d) prohibited recovery by the personal representative of the decedent. Robson v. Rodriquez, 44 N.J. Super. 262 (Law Div. 1957). We granted plaintiff's motion for certification prior to consideration by the Appellate Division. 25 N.J. 283 (1957).

Plaintiff contends that the challenged provision of the statute violates the constitutional mandates in that the classification is "arbitrary and capricious" and does not bear a substantial relation to the objective of the statute. Specifically, he argues that there is no rational basis for excluding a person who is injured or sustains property damage when he is operating or riding in an uninsured vehicle owned by him, or his spouse, parent or child, while permitting recovery by an uninsured owner who was not present in his vehicle at the time of the accident. In short, he argues that the subsection is unconstitutional since it does not exclude all uninsured owners from recovery.

The guaranty of due process as it applies to cases of the type here under consideration requires only that a law shall not be unreasonable, arbitrary or capricious, and that the means selected shall bear a rational relation to the legislative object sought to be obtained. Nebbia v. New York, 291 U.S. 502, 54 S. Ct. 505, 78 L. Ed. 940 (1934); Schmidt v. Board of ...


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