Sullivan, Kolovsky and Carton. The opinion of the court was delivered by Carton, J.A.D.
The issue presented is whether a plaintiff in a negligence action initiated in the county district court may recover greater damages than the $3,000 statutory limit by a transfer of the action after verdict to the Superior Court or County Court.
In her complaint plaintiff Lucille Andriola demanded judgment for $3,000. The jury rendered a verdict of $8,000. Thereupon the trial judge, upon his own initiative, reduced the verdict to $3,000 and directed the court clerk to enter judgment in that amount.
After verdict plaintiff moved before the county district court to transfer the action to the County Court or to the
Superior Court, Law Division, for the purpose of entering a judgment therein in the sum of $8,000. Defendant moved for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, in the alternative, for a new trial on all issues.
The trial court denied both motions and included in the order denying defendant's motion a finding that the $8,000 verdict was not excessive.
On this appeal plaintiff maintains that when the jury remanded the verdict for $8,000, the county district court lost jurisdiction of the entire cause. Plaintiff argues that thereupon, or upon her motion, the court should have transferred the cause to the County Court or Superior Court pursuant to R.R. 1:27D for the purpose of entering judgment on the verdict. Alternatively, plaintiff maintains that this court should now effect the transfer pursuant to this rule or to this court's inherent powers.
We hold that the plaintiff may not recover greater damages than the amount expressly claimed in the complaint. The $3,000 demanded is the statutory limit for such action in the county district court. Neither the statute nor the rules authorize such a transfer of the action once a verdict has been rendered so as to enable the recovery of an amount in excess of the statutory limit.
The county district courts are inferior courts of limited jurisdiction, which the Legislature may establish, alter or abolish in its discretion as the public good may require. N.J. Const. 1947, Art. VI, § I, par. 1; Friedman v. Podell, 21 N.J. 100 (1956). The pertinent constitutional provision reads:
"The judicial power shall be vested in a Supreme Court, a Superior Court, County Courts and inferior courts of limited jurisdiction. * * *" (Emphasis added)
Historically, one of the significant features of the county district courts has always been the monetary limitation placed upon their jurisdiction. The first statute dealing with district courts ...