On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Burlington County.
Bischoff, Botter and Morton I. Greenberg. The opinion of the court was delivered by Morton I. Greenberg, J.A.D.
Plaintiff Marsha R. Tyson appeals from an order of the Superior Court, Law Division, granting a summary judgment in favor of defendant on the ground that this action is barred by the statute of limitations. The appeal requires this court to determine whether the provisions of N.J.S.A. 2A:14-21 extending the period for suit under N.J.S.A. 2A:14-2 have been modified by N.J.S.A. 9:17B-1 et seq. , effective January 1, 1973, lowering the age of majority from 21 years to 18 years.
Plaintiff was born August 26, 1956. She was involved in an automobile accident with defendant on June 19, 1976 when she was 19 years old. This action was filed July 6, 1978. Defendant moved for summary judgment, relying on N.J.S.A. 2A:14-2 which provides that
Every action at law for an injury to the person caused by the wrongful act, neglect or default of any person within this state shall be commenced within 2 years next after the cause of any such action shall have accrued.
Plaintiff countered defendant's motion by citing N.J.S.A. 2A:14-21 which provides that if a person entitled to bring an action subject to N.J.S.A. 2A:14-2 or certain other sections is under 21 years at the time of the accrual of the action "such person may commence such action . . . within such time as limited by said sections, after his coming to or being of full age . . .." The trial judge granted the motion, reasoning that N.J.S.A. 9:17B-1 et seq. superseded N.J.S.A. 2A:14-21 since, with certain exceptions not deemed applicable, persons 18 years of age are now adults with the full right to sue and be sued. Additionally, the trial judge denied plaintiff's application to take defendant's deposition in an attempt to develop facts
that defendant had been a nonresident during a portion of the time from the accident to the date of the filing of the suit.
N.J.S.A. 9:17B-1 provides in pertinent part as follows:
The Legislature finds and declares and by this act intends, pending the revision and amendment of the many statutory provisions involved, to:
a. Extend to persons 18 years of age and older the basic civil and contractual rights and obligations heretofore applicable only to persons 21 years of age or older, including the right to contract, sue, be sued and defend civil actions . . .
Two sections in N.J.S.A. 9:17B et seq. deal with the statute of limitations. N.J.S.A. 9:17B-2 declares that the Legislature did not intend to "[a]lter the provisions of N.J.S.A. 2A:14-21 with respect to the time within which a person under 21 years of age as of January 1, 1973 may commence an action or make an entry under a cause or right accrued prior to said date." N.J.S.A. 9:17B-3 provides that
Except with respect to the provisions of N.J.S.A. 2A:14-21 . . . every person 18 or more years of age shall in all other matters and for all other purposes be deemed to be an adult and, notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, shall have the same legal capacity to act ...