On Appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Special Civil Part, Bergen County, Docket No. DC-009702-10.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted March 27, 2012 -
Before Judges Espinosa and Kennedy.
Defendant Batia Grinblat, a pedestrian, was struck by a motor vehicle and injured on January 29, 2007. Her automobile insurance policy with defendant State Farm Indemnity Company (State Farm) provided $250,000 in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits. After defendant's PIP benefits were exhausted in June 2007, State Farm denied payment for any additional medical services.*fn1
On March 22, 2010, plaintiff Med-X Medical Management Services (Med-X) filed a complaint in the Special Civil Part against defendant, seeking $10,703. Its principal, Lenny August, testified that the claim was for twelve trips of wheelchair van transportation.
Defendant filed an answer and jury demand, dated May 3, 2010. She also filed a third party complaint against State Farm and Louise Hansen, whom she described as State Farm's agent. In her third party complaint, defendant alleged:
Louise Hansen ordered all goods & services from Med-x [sic] and told Grinblat that Hansen will pay for them; Hansen was agent of State Farm which paid for all goods & services ordered by Hansen; State Farm hired Hansen as agent thru her employer; Grinblat relied on Hansen and her promises and arrangements, otherwise Grinblat would have made other arrangements.
On May 12, 2010, the trial court entered a "jury trial order" sua sponte, which required all parties to exchange and submit the following at least seven days before the scheduled trial date of June 29, 2010:
A. Any proposed jury voir dire questions.
B. A list of proposed jury instructions pursuant to R. 1:8-7 with specific references to Model Jury Charges if applicable, or to applicable legal authority which charges must be tailored to the facts involved in the instant case. Any substantive issue which is not included in the request to charge, may, at the discretion of the Court, be deemed abandoned or may be viewed as an issue for determination by the Court rather than by a jury. Failure to tailor any request to charge to the facts involved in this case may be viewed as constituting a request for a general charge and a waiver of a request for a tailored charge.
C. A proposed jury verdict form pursuant to R. 4:39-2 which shall address and include all possible verdicts which the jury may return. The Court may decline to submit any issue to the jury which is not addressed in the proposed verdict forms[.]
The order further stated, "failure to exchange and submit all of the information required by this Order, within seven (7) days prior to the scheduled trial date, may result in sanctions as determined by the trial judge including waiver of the jury trial demand."
In response to the court's sua sponte order, defendant submitted proposed instructions to be given before voir dire and after the evidence was presented. The response cited specific Model Civil Jury Charges; included proposed voir dire questions, with specific references to Directive #4-07; and proposed a verdict sheet that listed elements set forth in relevant portions of the Model Civil Jury Charges. The trial court ruled that defendant's submission did not comply with its order because the instructions were not tailored to the facts of the case. Relying upon Velazquez ...