The novel question posed in this motion for summary judgment is whether hospital expenses incurred subsequent to confirmation of irreversible brain death are compensible under the New Jersey no fault act, N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4.
On January 2, 1985, Michael Myronowskyj (hereafter Michael), age 14, was a passenger in a motor vehicle operated by his mother, Stephanie Myronowskyj, which was involved in a collision with another vehicle. Michael's mother was fatally injured, and he was admitted to the Newcomb Medical Center in
a comatose condition. Michael suffered multiple injuries including an acute subdural hematoma and brain contusion.
Dr. John C. O'Donnell, a neurosurgeon, as the attending physician, testified at depositions, and provided a written report, indicating that, initially, Michael's medical condition improved after emergency surgery; however, he then suffered a tremendous elevation in intracranial pressure. Efforts to decrease the swelling of Michael's brain were unsuccessful and his condition deteriorated. Throughout his hospitalization, Michael was maintained on a respirator-life-support system.
Dr. O'Donnell, in consultation with a neurologist, rendered a clinical diagnosis that Michael suffered irreversible brain death. An electroencephalogram performed on January 11, 1985, confirmed the absence of brain activity, i.e., electrocerebral silence. Thus, Dr. O'Donnell opined that Michael had suffered brain death as of January 11, 1985.
On or before that date, Dr. O'Donnell began conferring with Michael's family members about the advisability of organ donation. Certain family members believed that organ donation was appropriate while other family members disagreed. This highly sensitive decision was never resolved, as Michael's blood pressure deteriorated and he was formally pronounced dead on January 23, 1985, and the life-support systems were removed.
It is uncontradicted that the maintenance of Michael on life-support systems after January 11, 1985, was for the sole purpose of maintaining Michael's organs so they could be harvested for transplant in the event his surviving relatives agreed with this procedure.
On January 31, 1985, proper application for personal -- injury -- protection benefits (PIP) was made by plaintiff to defendant, Hanover Insurance Company. The total medical and hospital expenses incurred by plaintiff were $35,388.70. Defendant, Hanover Insurance Company, has paid on behalf of plaintiff's application for PIP benefits only those expenses incurred up to and including January 11, 1985. Defendant has declined
to pay the expenses incurred subsequent to January 11, 1985, which total $10,615.08 and now moves for summary judgment.
Defendant contends that it is entitled to summary judgment because medical expenses incurred subsequent to the confirmation of irreversible brain death are not incurred for the purpose of treatment of plaintiff's ...