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Red Star Express Lines v. De Stefano

Decided: December 24, 1968.

RED STAR EXPRESS LINES, A CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
NATALE J. DE STEFANO, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT, UNSATISFIED CLAIM AND JUDGMENT FUND BOARD, APPELLANT



Goldmann, Kolovsky and Carton. The opinion of the court was delivered by Carton, J.A.D.

Carton

Plaintiff Red Star Express Lines is a New York corporation authorized to transact business in New Jersey. It owns and maintains a large truck terminal in North Bergen from which it operates a considerable number of tractor-trailers and other automotive equipment. Certain of its vehicles are registered in this State while an undisclosed number are registered in New York.

In July 1966 one of Red Star's tractor-trailers, which was registered in New York, was damaged when it collided with

a vehicle driven by defendant DeStefano, who was uninsured. Red Star recovered a judgment in the amount of $1,184 against DeStefano for property damage. On application of Red Star, an order was entered directing the State Treasurer to pay the amount of the judgment out of the Unsatisfied Claim and Judgment Fund. The Fund appeals.

The narrow question presented is whether plaintiff is a "qualified person" under N.J.S.A. 39:6-62 so as to be entitled to payment from the Fund. That section defines "qualified person" to mean:

"* * * a resident of this State or the owner of a motor vehicle registered in this State or a resident of another State, territory, or Federal district of the United States or Province of the Dominion of Canada, or foreign country, in which recourse is afforded, to residents of this State, of substantially similar character to that provided for by this act."

The section also defines the term "person" as specifically including "corporations."

New York's motor vehicle accident indemnification law does not provide a remedy for claims by nonresidents for property damage. N.Y. Ins. Law, ยง 600 (McKinney's Consol. Laws, c. 28, 1966). Consequently, since the tractor-trailer was registered in New York, and since New York does not afford recourse of substantially similar character to residents of this State, plaintiff is not a qualified person under the reciprocity clause of the statute.

Hence, our primary inquiry is directed toward a consideration of whether plaintiff, as a New York corporation, was, on the date of the accident, a "resident of this State" within the meaning of the statute.

Our courts have enunciated the general principle that the Unsatisfied Judgment Fund Act is to receive a liberal interpretation, with due regard to fulfillment of the essential legislative design, while protecting the Fund against possible fraud and abuse. Corrigan v. Gassert, 27 N.J. 227, 237 (1958); Douglas v. Harris, 35 N.J. 270, 279 (1961).

The Supreme Court in Douglas described the purpose of the statute and emphasized the prudent manner in ...


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