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J.J. Nugent Co. v. Sagner

Decided: May 12, 1976.

J.J. NUGENT CO., A CORPORATION OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY AND JOHN J. DUNN CONSTRUCTION CO. A CORPORATION OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, A JOINT VENTURE, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ALAN SAGNER, COMMISSIONER OF THE NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, DEFENDANT



Francis, A.j.s.c.

Francis

Defendant moves to transfer the venue of the within cause from Superior Court, Law Division, Atlantic County to Superior Court, Law Division, Mercer County. The underlying litigation sounds in contract. Defendant contends that R. 4:3-2(a)(2) governs the instant matter. It provides in pertinent part:

(a) Where Laid. Venue shall be laid by the plaintiff in Superior Court actions as follows: * * * (2) actions not affecting real property

which are brought by or against municipal corporations, counties, public agencies or officials, in the county in which the cause of action arose . . .

Defendant is a state official and argues that such position falls within the purview of "public . . . . official".

The parties agree that the cause of action in the instant matter arose in Mercer County.

Plaintiffs contend that R. 4:3-2(a)(2) does not apply to actions against state officials and assert that R. 4:3-2(a)(3) is applicable. In pertinent part it provides:

Plaintiffs submit that venue under R. 4:3-2(a)(3) is laid properly in Atlantic County since the residence of plaintiffs lies therein. They contend that R. 4:3-2(a)(2), mandating venue where the cause of action arose, is intended to apply only to those public agencies or public officials as are confined to a local presence. Plaintiffs argue that the rule drafters did not intend that the State, having a statewide presence be entitled to the benefit afforded to localized public agencies and public officials under R. 4:3-2(a)(2). Thus plaintiffs conclude that the venue is properly laid in Atlantic County under R. 4:3-2(a)(3).

Initially, the court should determine the literal effect of the words chosen by the drafters of the court rules. An enactment "must be construed according to the generally accepted meaning of its words." Downey v. Jersey City Bd. of Ed. , 74 N.J. Super. 548, 552 (App. Div. 1962). This is the rule "(u)nless there is something about the language or its effect that compels us to do otherwise * * *" Id. at 552. The most informative literal definition is that of "public". Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary (1958 ed.) defines the adjective "public" as follows:

1. Of or pertaining to the people; relating to, belonging to, or affecting a nation, state , or community at large; -- opposed to private. [Emphasis applied to private in the original].

Thus the conclusion reached in a literal interpretation of R. 4:3-2(a)(2) is that state agencies and officials are included ...


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