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Weiss v. Thomas

Decided: June 9, 1994.

SHEILA WEISS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
DEBRA A. THOMAS, JOHANNA M. EWALD AND/OR JOHANNA M. KROKER, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County

Before Judges Pressler, Brochin and Kleiner

Brochin

The opinion of the court was delivered by

BROCHIN, J.A.D.

Plaintiff Sheila Weiss, a North Carolina resident, alleges that she suffered personal injuries on February 25, 1989, when an automobile in which she was a passenger collided with another

automobile that was owned by defendant Johanna M. Ewald and that was being driven by defendant Debra A. Thomas.

The accident occurred in New York. The automobile in which plaintiff was riding was owned and was being operated by her daughter, who was a New Jersey resident. Both that automobile and the automobile with which it collided were registered in New Jersey.

Ms. Weiss sued Ms. Thomas and Ms. Ewald to recover damages for her injuries. Defendants moved for summary judgment dismissing the complaint on the ground that plaintiff had not met the threshold requirements of N.J.S.A. 39:6A-8a. In opposing the motion, plaintiff argued that N.J.S.A. 39:6A-8a was inapplicable to this case because she was a North Carolina resident and the accident happened in New York. She also contended that she had met the statutory threshold requirements.

The Law Division held that plaintiff was subject to the verbal threshold requirements of N.J.S.A. 39:6A-8a and that she had not shown any facts which would allow a trier of fact to conclude that she had met the threshold. The court therefore granted summary judgment dismissing the complaint.

Plaintiff has appealed, arguing the same points before us that she did in the trial court.

To determine whether the plaintiff in the present case is subject to the verbal threshold requirement, we start with an analysis of the language of N.J.S.A. 39:6A-8a and -8b. The portions of that statute which we quote below were adopted by L. 1988, c. 119, § 6, and became effective January 1, 1989. N.J.S.A. 39:6A-8 was significantly amended by L. 1990, c. 8, § 9, which became effective March 12, 1990. We will point out the effect of that amendment after we have discussed the provisions of N.J.S.A. 39:6A-8 which have remained unchanged.

Our analysis will be facilitated by viewing the corresponding provisions of subsections "a" and "b," side by side. Each material provision of either of the two subsections which does not have a

substantially identical counterpart in the other has been underlined.

Subsection a Subsection b

As an alternative to the basic tort

option specified in subsection a. of

this section,

Every owner, registrant, operator every owner, registrant, operator, or

or occupant of an automobile to occupant of an ...


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