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State v. Public Service Electric & Gas Co.

Decided: May 17, 1972.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PUBLIC SERVICE ELECTRIC & GAS COMPANY, A NEW JERSEY CORPORATION, DEFENDANT



Seidman, J.c.c. (temporarily assigned).

Seidman

This matter is before the court on a claimant's motion to reopen and amend a final judgment of escheat. The basic facts are not in substantial dispute.

The question to be resolved is whether a claimant who has made a timely application to reclaim some escheated property can, more than two years after the filing of the escheat judgment, present a claim for additional escheated property mistakenly omitted from the prior application.

There appears to be no reported case in this State on the precise issue involved herein.

Although the State does not challenge the claimant's allegations, its position is that the application is barred by the expiration of the statutory two-year period. The claimant contends that on the facts here present the court has the power to grant the relief sought notwithstanding the passage of time.

The final judgment, entered September 12, 1969 and amended December 22, 1969, escheated to the State unclaimed interest on bonds of the Public Service Electric & Gas Company or its predecessor companies in the aggregate amount of $16,712.50, and unclaimed funds representing moneys for the redemption of the bonds in the aggregate amount of $13,888.75.

In August 1971 J. Malcolm Mossman, the claimant herein, applied pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:37-28 to reopen the

judgment in order to establish his ownership of part of the escheated property. According to the supporting affidavits and documents, Mossman, a resident of New York City and described as a person of advanced years who lived alone and failed to pay close attention to his business affairs, claimed ownership of coupons in the total amount of $11,500 which had formerly been attached to 10 $1000, 5% first mortgage bonds of the Hudson County Gas Company (a predecessor of Public Service Electric & Gas Company). His New York counsel and attorney-in-fact, Irving D. Goodstein, related that on or about November 10, 1970 he caused the bonds to be presented for payment to Commercial Trust Company of New Jersey, together with attached uncollected coupons in the sum of $2000 for the period May 1, 1946 to November 1, 1949. He further stated that although the principal of the bonds was paid in full, he was advised by the bank that the funds of the payment of the coupons had escheated to the State. Payment of 380 additional detached coupons, each valued at $25, for the years 1927 through 1945, found in Mossman's safe deposit box, was refused for the same reason. The claimant denied previous knowledge of the escheat proceedings.

The court being satisfied that the claimant was the owner of the coupons and that he had not had actual notice of the escheat action, and no opposition being offered by the State, an order was entered August 13, 1971, amending the final judgment and directing the State Treasurer to pay the sum of $11,476.19 to the claimant, representing the accumulated interest on the bonds less a pro rata share of the expenses incurred by the State.

The present application, filed in March 1972, is "for an order pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:37-28 amending the Judgment entered in the above entitled matter on August 13, 1971, which reopened and amended the final judgment entered September 12, 1969, as amended December 22, 1969, to direct that the sum of $10,000, represents (sic) the principal of $10,000 bonds of Hudson County Electric and Gas Company

(sic), less expenses of this action attributed thereto," be ...


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