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Department of Health v. Sol Schnoll Dressed Poultry Co.

Decided: July 23, 1968.

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
SOL SCHNOLL DRESSED POULTRY COMPANY, A NEW JERSEY CORPORATION, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT



Conford, Collester and Labrecque. The opinion of the court was delivered by Collester, J.A.D.

Collester

This is an appeal by plaintiff State Department of Health from a district court judgment entered in favor of defendant Sol Schnoll Dressed Poultry Company dismissing its action to recover a penalty for failure to obtain a license required under N.J.S.A. 24:9-21 et seq.

The facts are not in dispute. The statement of the evidence and proceedings submitted pursuant to R.R. 1:6-3 shows that defendant is engaged in the business of purchasing and selling food products both wholesale and retail in the City of Newark. In connection with that business defendant operates and maintains a storage space mechanically cooled below a temperature of 45 degrees Fahrenheit in which food products other than fresh unprocessed fruits and vegetables are stored. Some of the food is stored in excess of 30 days. All of the food is owned by defendant and is held in storage for the purpose of resale and not for consumption on the premises.

An investigation by the Department of defendant's premises revealed the existence of the refrigerated warehouse and that defendant had not obtained a license to operate the same. Plaintiff thereupon brought the penalty action which was dismissed by the district court. This appeal followed.

Section 22 of the statute cited above provides that any person desiring to operate or to continue to operate a refrigerated warehouse or locker plant must obtain a license from the State Department of Health to do so. Section 21 defines "refrigerated warehouse" and "locker plant" as follows:

"b. 'Refrigerated warehouse' shall mean any place artificially or mechanically cooled to or below a temperature of forty-five degrees Fahrenheit in which articles, other than fresh unprocessed fruits and vegetables, are placed and held for thirty days or more, except a restaurant, store, home, or eating club utilizing its refrigerated warehouse space exclusively for its own use.

c. 'Locker plant' shall mean any refrigerated storage warehouse or the portion thereof which provides separate individual lockers, cabinets, boxes, baskets, or other receptacles, for the storage of food products for home or personal use only and not for purpose of sale."

The trial court held that defendant's wholesale business fell within the statutory exemption of a "store" which utilized its refrigerated warehouse space exclusively for its own use and therefore no license was required.

Plaintiff contends that the trial judge erred in his conclusion. It claims that the term "store," as used in the exemption clause of the statute, pertains to a retail store and not a wholesale business, and that the legislative history of the statute reflects a legislative intent to require wholesale businesses to be licensed.

The central issue in this case is the meaning of the word "store" as used in the exemption clause of the statute. The word "store" has a broad meaning in the United States as "any place where goods are kept for sale, or are sold." Township of Maplewood v. Tannenhaus, 64 N.J. Super. 80, 88 (App. Div. 1960). Words are inexact tools at best, and when the meaning of a word used in a statute is not explicit its meaning will be restricted, whenever it is necessary, in such manner as to carry out the legislative intention, and the reason and spirit of the statute will control its interpretation. DeFazio v. Haven Savings and Loan Ass'n, 22 N.J. 511, 518 (1956). The real intention, when ascertained, will prevail over the literal sense of the term. Pine v. Okzewski, 112 N.J.L. 429, 433 (E. & A. 1933). See also Board of Education of City of Asbury Park v. Hoek, 38 N.J. 213, 231 (1962); Seatrain Lines, Inc. v. Medina, 39 N.J. 222, 226-231 (1963).

The purpose of N.J.S.A. 24:9-21 et seq., as indicated by the title of the enacting statute, is to protect the public's health. See L. 1951, c. 342. The evil it seeks to eliminate is the distribution of unwholesome food. As remedial legislation it must be liberally construed to promote the public policy of the State in protecting the safety of its people. Cf. State v. ...


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