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Shebell v. Strelecki

Decided: January 8, 1969.

THOMAS F. SHEBELL, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JUNE STRELECKI, DIRECTOR OF THE DIVISION OF MOTOR VEHICLES, STATE OF NEW JERSEY, AND UNSATISFIED CLAIM AND JUDGMENT FUND BOARD, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS, AND JAMES LIVELY AND HAROLD A. SHERMAN, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS, AND MANUEL J. RAHTJEN, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT



Sullivan, Foley and Lewis. The opinion of the court was delivered by Sullivan, S.j.a.d.

Sullivan

This appeal in an interpleader case actually involves the effort of the Unsatisfied Claim and Judgment Fund Board to recover back $9,000 paid to one Manuel J. Rahtjen, under a court order which directed payment out of the Unsatisfied Claim and Judgment Fund of a $9,000 judgment entered against an uninsured motorist. The trial court held that the Board was not entitled to recover back the $9,000. The Director of the Division of Motor Vehicles and the Board have appealed this decision. For reasons hereinafter detailed we reverse.

On February 9, 1962 Manuel Rahtjen was seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident involving James Lively, an uninsured driver. Notice was given to the Unsatisfied Claim and Judgment Fund Board, and suit was commenced against Lively by Rahtjen, who was represented by Harold A. Sherman, Esq. Ultimately, a settlement was worked out with the Board and Lively and, on June 19, 1963, a consent judgment was entered in favor of Rahtjen and against Lively for $9,000 without costs.

Thereafter, Rahtjen applied for payment of said judgment out of the Unsatisfied Claim and Judgment Fund. As required by N.J.S.A. 39:6-70, in his sworn application he represented, among other things, that: "I am not a person covered with respect to the injury in this case by workmen's compensation," and "I have not recovered a judgment in any action against any other person against whom I have a cause of action in respect to the damages or bodily injuries arising out of this accident." The application was not opposed by the Fund.

On July 15, 1963 the trial court ordered that Rahtjen be paid the amount of his judgment, out of the Fund. The order also required defendant Lively to repay the Fund the amount of $5 a month. An assignment of the judgment to the Director of the Division of Motor Vehicles was duly executed by Rahtjen. Out of the $9,000 received, Rahtjen

paid his attorney Harold A. Sherman $2,200 for counsel fees and costs.

In February 1964 Rahtjen, through other counsel, filed a workmen's compensation claim for the same injuries sustained by him in the February 9, 1962 automobile accident.

On March 25, 1966, while the workmen's compensation proceedings were pending, an order entitled in the Rahtjen v. Lively cause was entered restraining Rahtjen and his attorney, Thomas F. Shebell, Esq., from disbursing the proceeds of any settlement or recovery entered in Rahtjen's workmen's compensation case until the further order of the court.

On November 2, 1966 the Division of Workmen's Compensation, having received testimony and stipulations, ordered the dismissal of Rahtjen's claim petition. At the same time respondent therein and its insurance carrier agreed to pay by way of compensation to Rahtjen the sum of $24,750, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 34:15-16, which payment was approved by Division order.

Counsel for Rahtjen then moved to vacate the order of March 25, 1966. As a result, a further order was entered directing Mr. Shebell to retain $9,000 out of the proceeds received by Rahtjen in the workmen's compensation proceeding and to file a complaint in interpleader as to the $9,000, joining all interested parties as defendants in the suit.

At the hearing in the interpleader suit the trial court rejected the claim that the Fund was entitled to recover back the $9,000 payment made to Rahtjen. The court held that there was no provision in the Unsatisfied Claim and Judgment Fund Law which requires a person who has received payment from the Fund to repay or reimburse the Fund out of moneys received at a later date from another source for the same injuries. The court also held that the Fund was estopped to seek reimbursement, since it ...


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