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Robinson v. St. Peter''s Medical Center

Decided: July 21, 1989.

MILTON ROBINSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ST. PETER'S MEDICAL CENTER, DEFENDANT



Villanueva, J.s.c.

VILLANUEVA

Defendant, St. Peter's Medical Center, contracted with plaintiff's employer to have its windows washed. Plaintiff alleges that due to St. Peter's negligence, he was caused to fall off a ledge and sustained injuries while washing the windows. Plaintiff instituted this third-party action against St. Peter's. The jury found St. Peter's negligent, but that such negligence was not a proximate cause of plaintiff's falling three floors.

Plaintiff made a motion to set aside the jury verdict and for a new trial, which was denied. After plaintiff filed a notice of

appeal to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court seeking to reverse the judgment in favor of defendant, he filed this motion for an order to waive filing fees and deposit for costs on appeal, pursuant to R. 2:7-1, and (for the county) to supply plaintiff with a free transcript of the trial proceedings for the appeal, pursuant to R. 2:5-3.

The issues are: (1) whether plaintiff qualifies as an indigent under R. 2:7-1 so that the court can waive payment of appellate filing fees and deposit for costs; and (2) whether an unsuccessful party in a negligence action is entitled under R. 2:5-3(d) to a free trial transcript for an appeal at the county's expense.

The court holds that plaintiff has failed to prove that he is indigent. In addition, he has failed to show any reason why he is entitled to a free transcript.

Plaintiff contends that he is "presently indigent" and has no funds from which to pay for the transcript, filing fees and deposit for costs in connection with this appeal. He has not worked since the accident of October 9, 1984 when he was severely injured and became permanently disabled.

He says that his only source of income is $618 a month which he receives for permanent disability from his worker's compensation case. Since he has been judged to be totally disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act by the Social Security Administration, he obviously is receiving disability benefits from them as well. He says this income will not last indefinitely and does not even cover what he needs for basic necessities to exist. He says he has no other source of income or assets at present except for a personal injury claim arising out of an automobile accident.

R. 2:7-1 permits the court to enter an order waiving payment of filing fees and deposit for costs "if satisfied of the facts of indigency. . . ." Defendant contends that plaintiff has not set forth sufficient factual data in his petition and certification to satisfy this court of his indigency.

Defendant contends that plaintiff is not indigent because there is no proof he cannot work, only that he has not attempted to obtain gainful employment since the accident. However, inability to work is not determinative of indigency.

An "indigent" is, according to definitions by Webster's Dictionary and Black's Law Dictionary, one who is "destitute . . . impoverished . . . needy . . . lacking means of subsistence . . . having no one to look to for support."

Although the standards for eligibility as an indigent for obtaining the services of a public defender in a criminal case are set forth in N.J.S.A. 2A:158-14, there is no counterpart for civil litigants.

One cannot compare the costs to pay a public defender with the court costs of a civil appeal.

An appellant is required to pay $25*fn1 for filing an appeal, R. 2:5-1(3)(iii), and must deposit with the clerk of the appellate court $300 to satisfy the costs of the appeal. Of course, the $300 would be returned to the appellant if he were successful. No deposit for costs shall be required if leave is granted to appeal as an indigent pursuant to R. 2:7-1.

Plaintiff, who receives $7,320 tax free annually (even not considering social security disability benefits), does not satisfy the poverty requirements to file an appeal as an indigent in a civil case. It is not unreasonable to require such a person to pay only $25 filing fees to the court if he is successful; if the appellant were unsuccessful, the respondent could ...


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