The issue presented is whether plaintiffs, physicians who provided medical services for defendant's late husband, are entitled to compensation where the estate of decedent was less than $5,000 and defendant received medical insurance proceeds resulting from plaintiff's services. The issue does not appear to have been reported in New Jersey.
The following facts were stipulated:
1) Plaintiffs are physicians who treated Garris Briggs in October, 1990. Their bill totalled $782. (The reasonableness of the bill was not disputed.)
2) Garris Briggs died on October 11, 1990, leaving defendant, Beatrice Briggs, his widow, but from whom he lived apart for five years with no financial interdependence, as his surviving spouse.
3) Decedent's gross estate was less than $5,000.
4) Decedent had insurance to cover certain medical expenses, including the bill submitted by plaintiffs. Pursuant to that insurance, Blue Shield or Medicare issued checks for $676.72, payable to decedent but mailed to defendant. She brought the checks to the Surrogate's office, executed an affidavit to the
effect that the estate was less than $5,000 and, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 3B:10-3, cashed the checks and retained the proceeds. Plaintiffs thereupon commenced the subject action.
The Answer to the Complaint was essentially a general denial, with an affirmative defense that:
"At the time that the services were rendered to said decedent, the defendant was married to said decedent, but they were separated for more than five years prior to his death, and said decedent had not supported the defendant during this period."
As relevant, N.J.S.A. 3B:10-3 ...