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Williams v. Marziano

Decided: February 14, 1963.

RUTH L. WILLIAMS, EXECUTRIX OF THE ESTATE OF HERBERT J. WILLIAMS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DOMINICK MARZIANO AND WILLIAM S. BRANDT, DEFENDANTS



Glickenhaus, J.c.c. (temporarily assigned).

Glickenhaus

The first part of this motion is to strike requests for admissions served by the plaintiff upon the defendants in a wrongful death action. Five requests for admissions were made. Defendant Brandt answered requests Nos. 1 and 2, but objected to requests Nos. 3, 4 and 5, and moved to strike those requests as calling for matters of opinion. Defendant Marziano originally objected to all five of the requests, but has withdrawn his objections to Nos. 1 and 2, and seeks to have the remaining requests stricken on the same ground as urged by defendant Brandt.

The three requests here in controversy seek admissions as to the reasonableness of medical bills. Request No. 3 requests the admission of the reasonableness of a doctor's bill of $100 for "consultation." Request No. 4 requests an admission of the reasonableness of a hospital bill of $1,812.45, as well as other facts. Request No. 5 is a request for admission of the reasonableness of the bill of a second physician for "treatment."

The rule under which these admissions are sought is R.R. 4:26-1, which provides in part:

"After commencement of an action and before trial, a party may serve upon any other party a written request for the admission by the latter of the genuineness of any relevant documents described in and exhibited with the request, or of the truth of any relevant matters of fact set forth in the request, whether or not the matters lie within the personal knowledge of the latter. * * *"

The purpose of the rule is to facilitate the trial by weeding out the facts over which there is no true controversy but which are often difficult or expensive to prove. Hunter v. Erie R.R. Co. , 43 N.J. Super. 226, 231 (Law Div. 1956).

The plaintiff contends that the requests are proper under the above rationale, in that the admission of the reasonableness of such charges would facilitate the trial by removing from the trial the necessity of proving this matter.

The law of New Jersey with regard to medical expenses is that before there can be introduced testimony as to the amount of medical bills, there must first be offered proper proof as to the reasonableness of such charges. Garafola v. Rosecliff Realty Co., Inc. , 24 N.J. Super. 28 (App. Div. 1952). It would therefore appear that the medical bills referred to in the requests for admissions would have to be shown to be reasonable charges by proper proof prior to being offered into evidence as the actual amount paid by the plaintiff.

There is little doubt that if the requests were for admissions of facts , such requests would therefore be a relevant and proper subject for admissions. Defendants contend, however, that the requests call for admissions of matters of opinion rather than fact, and that the requests are therefore improper.

Two questions are presented to the court. First, are the admissions called for in these requests matters of opinion? Second, if they do call for opinion, are such requests proper under R.R. 4:26-1?

As to the first question, it is evident that the admissions requested here call for expressions of opinion rather than admissions of fact. For one to make any such admission, he would first have to consider many indefinite factors, including the nature of the injuries, the skill of the physician, the length of time and difficulty involved in the treatment afforded, as well as many others. Clearly, reasonable men may very well differ on such matters, and the conclusions they might reach would not be admissions of fact; rather they would be expressions of opinion. As the court stated in Ravitz v. Chirelstein , 135 N.J.L. 5, 7 (1946):

"But the inquiry as to the value of services is one that calls for the exercise of a fair judgment grounded in all the facts and circumstances, and informed by the opinions adduced from ...


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