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Mehta v. Johns-Manville Products Corp.

Decided: October 6, 1978.

SANJAY MEHTA, A MINOR BY HIS GUARDIAN AD LITEM, SUBHASH MEHTA AND SUNITA MEHTA, INDIVIDUALLY, PLAINTIFFS-RESPONDENTS,
v.
JOHNS-MANVILLE PRODUCTS CORP., C.I.T. SERVICE LEASING CORP., AND NORMAN CHASE, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Somerset County.

Lora, Michels and Larner.

Per Curiam

Defendants appeal from an order adding interest to the settlement of their personal injury claims totalling $125,000.

On April 3, 1972 plaintiffs Sanjay Mehta, a minor, then 2 1/2 years old, and his guardian ad litem and father Subhash Mehta and mother Sunida Mehta, residents of Montreal, Canada, were injured in an automobile accident near Plattsburg, New York. An action bearing Docket No. L-21032-72

was instituted in their behalf against defendants in Somerset County.

On July 6 and 7, 1976 settlement discussions were conducted which culminated in a total settlement of $125,000, $40,000 of which was allocated to the infant, Sanjay, $50,000 to Sunida Mehta and $35,000 to Subhash Mehta. Expenses and attorneys' fees were to be paid out of the father's $35,000; the infant Sanjay's $40,000 was to be placed under the control of the Surrogate of Somerset County to be released to him at age 18 together with its accumulated interest. Upon petitioning the court and with the court's approval, the infant's necessaries, medical treatments and special schooling due to the injury could be paid for out of these funds if the parents were unable to provide them.

Mr. and Mrs. Mehta as well as Sanjay (then five) were examined on the record as to the accident and their resulting injuries. They affirmatively stated that the settlement was voluntary and it released all claims against defendants, including the medical bills incurred in Canada. The infant's settlement was contingent upon the submission of a current neurological report and, following its receipt on August 11, 1976, a judgment approving said infant's settlement was entered on September 7, 1976.

Plaintiffs' counsel had them sign their releases on July 7, 1976 and on said date took them to the surrogate's office to execute the papers required for Sanjay, but they refused to do so. On September 10, 1976 counsel wrote to plaintiffs' Canadian counsel and asked him to advise the Mehtas of the necessity of their coming to the surrogate's office so that Sanjay's money could be secured and that this would not prevent any future application to have the money held by the surrogate released to Canada if law could be uncovered allowing this to be done. The Mehtas did not come to New Jersey for that purpose.

The releases, dated July 7, 1976 and signed by Sunida and Subhash Mehta, together with the judgment were forwarded by plaintiffs' counsel to defendants' attorney on

October 29, 1976. The letter of transmittal advised that the warrant for satisfaction regarding the infant's allowance would be forthcoming at a later date.

Thereafter, on November 3, 1976, plaintiffs filed a notice of motion to amend the final judgment entered on September 7, 1976 insofar as it required the monies of the infant to be deposited with the Somerset County Surrogate so as to provide that (1) the question of who was to receive the infant's monies and how and where they were to be invested was to be determined by the laws of Quebec; (2) the child's "tutor" under Quebec law be authorized to execute the warrant for satisfaction of judgment and receive the monies to be invested pursuant to the laws of Quebec; (3) the money be invested in Canada rather than deposited with the Surrogate of Somerset County so it could earn over the course ...


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