ASSEMBLY JUDICIARY COMMITTEE

 

STATEMENT TO

 

ASSEMBLY, No. 6133

 

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

 

DATED: †DECEMBER 9, 2021

 

††††† The Assembly Judiciary Committee reports favorably Assembly Bill No. 6133.

†††† This bill would allow certain persons to pursue a lawsuit for damages for wrongful death on behalf of the deceasedís survivors.

†††† Pursuant to current law, civil actions for damages arising from a personís wrongful death may be brought under two separate statutes. (1) the ďwrongful death act,Ē N.J.S.2A:31-1 et seq., provides that economic damages may be awarded to persons who would be entitled to the deceasedís property under the intestacy laws; and (2) the ďsurvivorís act,Ē N.J.S.2A:15-3, provides that damages for the decedentís pain and suffering from the time of the injury until death may be awarded to the decedentís estate.†

†††† When a person dies without a will, the county surrogate will appoint a general administrator of the estate who, among other duties, is authorized to file any civil actions under the survivorís act.† The surrogate will appoint an administrator ad prosequendum (generally the same person who is appointed general administrator) to file any civil actions under the wrongful death act.

†††† In an unpublished decision, Chandler v. Kasper, Docket No. A-2143-20 (decided October 7, 2021) the Appellate Division held that the decedentís daughter did not have standing to file a lawsuit under the survivorís act because she had not yet been appointed general administrator of her fatherís estate; she had been appointed only as administrator ad prosequendum, which entitled her to file suit under the wrongful death act (but not under the survivorís act). According to the daughter, the county surrogate had advised that it was necessary for her only to be appointed as administrator ad prosequendum in order to file the lawsuit, and disagreements with her siblings had led to a delay in her being able to seek appointment as general administrator.

†††† This bill is intended to address the issue by providing that the court may appoint a person as an administrator or administrator ad prosequendum even if the person was not yet appointed as such at the time the person filed a lawsuit under the wrongful death act or survivorís act.† The bill provides that the court could allow the person filing suit to be designated administrator ad prosequendum, executor, or administrator with the will annexed, as the case may be, and to allow the plaintiff to amend any pleadings relating back to the plaintiffís first filed pleading to reflect the designation.††

†††† The bill would take effect immediately.† It would apply to any action commenced on or after the effective date and to any action commenced prior to the effective date and not yet dismissed or finally adjudicated as of the effective date.