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Thomas v. Board of Review

Decided: January 13, 1965.

VIRGIL T. THOMAS, APPELLANT-PETITIONER,
v.
BOARD OF REVIEW, DIVISION OF EMPLOYMENT SECURITY, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND INDUSTRY, STATE OF NEW JERSEY, AND AMERICAN EXPORT LINES, INC., RESPONDENTS



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

This appeal involves a denial by the Division of Employment Security, Department of Labor and Industry (Division) of plaintiff's claim for benefits under the Temporary Disability Benefits Law, N.J.S.A. 43:21-25 et seq. The denial was affirmed by the Appellate Division, 83 N.J. Super. 91 (1964), and plaintiff's petition for certification was granted by this Court. 42 N.J. 418 (1964).

Plaintiff, a merchant seaman, was employed as a wiper on the S.S. Exemplar, a vessel owned and operated by American Export Lines (American Export), a New Jersey corporation, and registered, enrolled and licensed under the laws of the United States. American Export is a "covered employer" under the Unemployment Compensation Law, R.S. 43:21-1 et seq., as amended, and the Temporary Disability Benefits Law, supra. Having become ill while at sea, plaintiff contacted the United States Public Health Service Hospital, at Staten Island, New York, when the ship docked in New York. He reported there on February 7, 1963 and was treated as an outpatient until February 14, 1963, at which time he was admitted for inpatient care. He remained in the hospital until May 6, 1963, when he was "discharged not fit for duty" and placed on outpatient care.

During the periods of outpatient care plaintiff received eight dollars per day from American Export pursuant to maintenance and cure requirements of maritime law. See

Seatrain Lines, Inc. v. Medina, 39 N.J. 222 (1963). Pursuant to the provisions of 42 U.S.C.A. ยง 249, no charge was made by the Public Health Service for his care and treatment during his sojourn in the hospital, but he received no cash payments from American Export while a patient in the hospital.

Plaintiff's claim for temporary disability benefits during the period of hospitalization was denied by the Division, on the ground that no benefits were payable for any period for which a seaman was entitled to receive maintenance and cure, relying upon this Court's decision in Seatrain, supra. On appeal, the Board of Review of the Division (Board) affirmed, and its ruling was sustained by the Appellate Division.

The bar to plaintiff's entitlement to temporary disability benefit payments is asserted to arise by virtue of the provisions of N.J.S.A. 43:21-30, which reads in part:

"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." (Emphasis supplied)

The question with which we are now confronted is whether the free inpatient hospital services obtained by plaintiff from the Public Health Service were benefits "paid or payable under any unemployment compensation or similar law, or under any disability or cash sickness benefit or similar law, * * * of the Federal Government."

In order to ascertain the meaning of these words recourse must be had to the purpose for which the statute was enacted and the mischief it was intended to eliminate, and all parts of the statute must be read so that they are in alignment with the intent of the entire act. Seatrain Lines, Inc. v. Medina, supra, 39 N.J., at p. 226. The objective of and the purpose behind the Temporary Disability Benefits Law was defined by the Legislature in N.J.S.A. 43:21-26 to be a " payment of reasonable benefits" to "replace wage loss." (Emphasis

supplied) This contemplates a payment of cash to the disabled employee. Consistent with the above conclusion, the Legislature defined disability ...


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