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City of Paterson v. Paterson General Hospital

Decided: February 25, 1969.

CITY OF PATERSON, ETC., PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
THE PATERSON GENERAL HOSPITAL, ETC. AND FORTY-ONE (41 OTHERS) AND ARTHUR J. SILLS, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS, WILLIAM F. FORBES AND STANLEY M. LEVINE, INTERVENING PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS, V. THE PATERSON GENERAL HOSPITAL, ETC. AND FORTY-ONE (41 OTHERS) AND ARTHUR J. SILLS, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS



Goldmann, Kolovsky and Carton.

Per Curiam

[104 NJSuper Page 473] On January 10, 1966, following announcement by defendant The Paterson General Hospital of plans to move the hospital from its present site on Market Street

in Paterson to a tract of land about 3 1/2 miles away in Wayne Township, the City of Paterson instituted this action by filing a complaint in the Chancery Division "on behalf of all of the citizens, taxpayers and beneficiaries of the City of Paterson" to enjoin the proposed move. Plaintiff's basic contention was that the hospital is a charitable trust obligated to maintain its physical facilities within the municipal limits of the city for the benefit of the people of Paterson.

By order entered on the city's application on March 16, 1966, William F. Forbes and Stanley M. Levine were permitted to intervene in the action "as citizens, residents and taxpayers" of the city and thereafter they filed a complaint seeking the same relief as that prayed for by the city.

The two actions were consolidated and tried before Judge Mountain. His opinion, in which he ruled in favor of the hospital, is reported at 97 N.J. Super. 514 (Ch. Div. 1967). The city and the intervenors each appealed to this court from the resultant judgment dismissing the complaints. A stay pending appeal was entered by the trial court.

While the appeal was pending, a proposed settlement of the litigation, set forth in a writing dated June 28, 1968, was agreed upon between the city and the hospital. Contending that this is a class action, the city and the hospital then moved before this court for approval of the proposed compromise. Cf. R.R. 4:36-3.

Pursuant to our direction, testimony as to the reasonableness of the settlement was then taken before Judge Mountain on due notice.

After reviewing the record and hearing argument, we filed an opinion on January 6, 1969, the first paragraph of which reads as follows:

"Our review of the record and of the testimony taken with respect to the reasonableness of the proposed settlement satisfies us that (1) the settlement agreed upon between the City of Paterson and the Paterson General Hospital, if carried out, is a fair and reasonable settlement, and (2) this is a class action to which R.R. 4:36-1 and 3 apply, so that we may authorize the compromise despite the objection of plaintiff-intervenors."

We find no merit in the intervenors' contention that the compromise of the litigation may not be approved over their objection and in view of their pending appeal. This action is a class action, see R.R. 4:36-1. It is not one instituted solely to enforce the alleged individual rights of plaintiff and the intervenors. To adopt the language of the intervenors' complaint, it was brought "on behalf of all the class of citizens, residents and taxpayers of the City of Paterson who are directly affected by the contemplated move of the defendant, The Paterson General Hospital."

The intervenors have no greater or lesser right than any other member of the class. They cannot prevent approval by the court of a reasonable compromise of an action instituted for the benefit of the entire class of which they are only two individual members. Cf. Denicke v. Anglo California Nat. Bank of San Francisco, 141 F.2d 285 (9 th Cir. 1944); Rome v. Archer, 41 Del. Ch. 404, 197 A. 2 d 49 (1964).

Nor is there any substance to the intervenors' contention that to effect an approval of the settlement agreement by the governing body of the city required approval not only by the city's Board of Finance, which the agreement did receive, but also by its Board of Aldermen and its Board of Health. The minimal powers still vested in the Paterson Board of Aldermen in no wise encompass the power to deal with agreements or actions such as are here involved, and the Board of Health is not part of the governing body of Paterson. Grosso v. City of Paterson, 55 ...


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