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Seatrain Lines Inc. v. Medina

Decided: February 4, 1963.

SEATRAIN LINES, INC., A CORPORATION OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT,
v.
JUAN MEDINA, CLAIMANT-RESPONDENT, AND STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DIVISION OF EMPLOYMENT SECURITY, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND INDUSTRY, RESPONDENT



For reversal -- Chief Justice Weintraub, and Justices Jacobs, Francis, Proctor, Hall, Schettino and Haneman. For affirmance -- None. The opinion of the court was delivered by Haneman, J.

Haneman

Juan Medina (Medina), a New Jersey resident, was employed as a seaman by Seatrain Lines, Inc. (Seatrain), which corporation is engaged in the transportation of cargo on the high seas and navigable waters of the United States, between Edgewater, New Jersey; Savannah, Georgia; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Texas City, Texas. His regular wage was $86.59 per week. Medina was a member of the Seafarers International Union of North America (Union) which represented him for collective bargaining purposes. The collective bargaining agreement between Seatrain and the Union provided, in part:

" Maintenance and Cure. When a member of the Unlicensed Personnel is entitled to maintenance and cure under Maritime Law, he shall be paid maintenance at the rate of $8.00 per day for each day or part thereof, of entitlement. The payment due hereunder shall be paid to the man weekly."

On February 22, 1961, while so employed on the high seas aboard the S.S. Seatrain, New York, Medina reported a skin infection to the master of the vessel. Upon arrival at Edgewater on February 24, 1961, he was sent by Seatrain to the U.S. Public Health Service Hospital at Staten Island, New York, where he was examined, certified unfit for duty, and treated as an outpatient without cost to him. He continued totally disabled, incapable of performing the duties of his employment until April 17, 1961. Medina was paid $8 per day by Seatrain for each day of this unemployment.

Seatrain maintains a self-insured plan for employee temporary disability benefits under the Temporary Disability Benefits Law, N.J.S.A. 43:21-25 et seq., approved by the Disability Service of the New Jersey Division of Employment Security (Division). N.J.S.A. 43:21-32. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 43:21-29, Medina filed a claim with Seatrain for benefits at the rate of $35 per week, which was denied. He appealed to the Private Plan Hearing Officer of the Division (Hearing Officer). N.J.S.A. 43:21-50. On February 19, 1962, the Hearing Officer rendered a Determination of Facts and Order, which was amended on March 29, 1962, directing that Seatrain pay disability benefits to Medina for the period of February 26, 1961 through April 17, 1961, less the required waiting period, at the rate of $35 per week. Seatrain appealed to the Appellate Division. The Division was granted leave to intervene as a respondent. Prior to the argument in the Appellate Division, this court certified the appeal on its own motion. R.R. 1:10-1(a).

Seatrain argues that N.J.S.A. 43:21-30, which reads:

"No benefits shall be required or paid under this act for any period with respect to which benefits are paid or payable under any unemployment compensation or similar law, or under any disability or cash sickness benefit or similar law, of this State or of any other State or of the Federal Government. Nor shall any benefits be required or paid under this act for any period with respect to which benefits, other than benefits for permanent partial or permanent total disability previously incurred, are paid or are payable on account of the disability of the covered individual under any workmen's compensation law, occupational disease law, or similar legislation, of this State or of any other State or the Federal Government. * * * Disability benefits otherwise required hereunder shall be reduced by the amount paid currently under any governmental or private retirement, pension or permanent disability benefit or allowance program to which his most recent employer contributed on his behalf." (Emphasis supplied.)

bars the recovery by Medina of further disability benefits. It reasons that the $8 per day which was paid to him during his unemployment for "maintenance" constitutes a benefit "paid * * * under * * * [an] unemployment compensation

* * * or * * * disability or cash sickness benefit or similar law * * * of the Federal Government."

The Division admits that the monies which Medina received from Seatrain were paid under the general maritime law as a part of a requirement to provide maintenance and cure. It argues, however, that the word "law" bears the restricted connotation of "statutory law." It reasons that the payments for maintenance and cure having been made in accordance with judicial maritime decisions and not by virtue of a legislative enactment, further payment of benefits under the Temporary Disability Benefits Law would not constitute a prohibited duplication. The Division further urges that even if the word "law" is accorded a meaning of wider scope, as argued by Seatrain, the maritime law which requires payment for "maintenance and cure" is not similar to an unemployment compensation or disability or cash sickness benefit law.

We are therefore confronted with a primary and a possible secondary problem, i.e., (1) whether the word "law" as used in N.J.S.A. 43:21-30 restricts the prohibition against the duplication of mandatory payment of benefits to such payments made by virtue of statutory enactments, and, if the answer to this query is in the negative, (2) whether the payment of maintenance and cure is required by a law which falls within the categories of "unemployment compensation, * * * disability or cash sickness benefit or similar law * * * of the Federal Government."

The first question for consideration, therefore, is the meaning of "law" as used in the subject statute.

In statutory construction it is essential to ascertain the purpose for which the statute was enacted (Glick v. Trustees of Free Public Library, 2 N.J. 579, 585 (1949)) and the mischief it was intended to eliminate. San-Lan Builders, Inc. v. Baxendale, 28 N.J. 148, 155 (1958). All parts of the statute must be read so that they are in alignment with the intent of the entire act. Febbi v. Board of Review, Division of Employment Security, 35 N.J. 601

(1961); Sperry & Hutchinson Co. v. Margetts, 15 N.J. 203, 209 (1954). In Febbi, it was stated, at p. 606:

"It is a cardinal rule of statutory construction that the intention of the Legislature is to be derived from a view of the entire statute and that all sections must be read together in the light of the general intent of the act so that the auxiliary effect of each individual part of a section is made consistent with the whole."

In Giles v. Gassert, 23 N.J. 22 (1956), the court said, at pp. 33-34:

"The sense of a law is to be collected from its object and the nature of the subject matter, the contextual setting, and the statutes in pari materia; and the import of a particular word or phrase is controlled accordingly. Isolated ...


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