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Kotkin v. Caprio

Decided: February 16, 1961.

FAITH KOTKIN AND ROSEMARY HOOTON, AS ADMINISTRATRICES, ETC., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
RALPH G. CAPRIO AND MARIE S. CAPRIO, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS



Price, Gaulkin and Sullivan.

Per Curiam

[65 NJSuper Page 454] Plaintiffs appeal from a judgment which dismissed their complaint on the ground that the cause of

action therein alleged was barred by N.J.S. 2 A:14-2, the statute of limitations applicable to personal injury actions.

In Hewitt v. Hollahan , 56 N.J. Super. 372, 377 (App. Div. 1959) we said:

"From time to time we have been compelled to point out that imprecise pleadings often lead to error. Cf. State v. Arbus , 54 N.J. Super. 76 (App. Div. 1959); Board of Education, Woodbridge Tp. v. Kane Acoustical Co. , 51 N.J. Super. 319 (App. Div. 1958). The reason for this must be fairly obvious. A vague complaint, full of generalities, frequently indicates that the pleader has not thought through his cause of action, and does not yet know precisely upon what theory he will present his case. Consequently, unless he learns more about his case before he comes to trial, he may come without the evidence necessary to support the only theory upon which he can prevail.

A vague pleading in turn tends to confuse the adversary and the court. The defendant may understand plaintiff's pleading differently than the plaintiff does himself, while the court may make even a third interpretation of it.

We regret that we are unable to decide this appeal without pointing out that this case is an example of the foregoing. * * *"

And we regret that this is another such case. The complaint is so poorly drawn that the trial court, with good cause, construed it to be one for personal injuries only. Consequently, since the accident had happened May 2, 1957 and the complaint was filed May 29, 1959, the court ruled that the two-year limitation in N.J.S. 2 A:14-2 barred the action.

Plaintiffs admit that the personal injury claim was barred, but argue that the complaint was also intended to allege a cause of action under the Death Act, N.J.S. 2 A:31-1 et seq. , and since the injured woman, Catherine Dilks, died June 13, 1957, less than two years before the filing of the complaint, it was timely under N.J.S. 2 A:31-3, which provides "Every action brought under this chapter shall be commenced within 2 years after the death of the decedent, and not thereafter."

Except for whatever inferences might be drawn from the fact that the administrator ad prosequendum is a plaintiff,

the complaint contains no hint, even in general terms, that the decedent left any survivors for whose benefit said administrator is entitled to bring an action under the Death Act. This should be alleged. McGlone, Adm'r v. New Jersey R.R. & T. Co. , 37 N.J.L. 304 (Sup. Ct. 1875); Hamilton v. Bordentown Electric Light & Motor Co. , 68 N.J.L. 85 (Sup. Ct. 1902); Zipple v. Sandford & Harris Co. , 58 A. 176 (Sup. Ct. 1904); cf. Cooper v. Shore Electric Co. , 63 N.J.L. 558 (E. & A. 1899); Soden v. Trenton, etc., Traction Corp. , 101 N.J.L. 393 (E. & A. 1925); Turon v. J. & L. Construction Co. , 8 N.J. 543 (1952); Carianni v. Schwenker , 38 N.J. Super. 350 (App. Div. 1955). Here, on the contrary, the only loss or damage alleged in the complaint is that:

"4. By reason of the injuries sustained by the said Catherine Dilks and her subsequent death, the plaintiffs were forced to expend large sums of money in efforts to effect a cure ...


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