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Sunday, December 11, 2016

DEBRA WARREN, ET AL. VS. CHRISTOPHER P. MUENZEN M.D., ET AL. A-1949-15T4


DEBRA WARREN, ET AL. VS. CHRISTOPHER P. MUENZEN M.D.,
          ET AL.
A-1949-15T4
In 2009, the Legislature amended the Survivor Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:15-3, for the first time including a statute of limitations requiring "[e]very action" under the Act "be commenced within two years after the death of the decedent . . . ." The 2009 Amendment also provided that if the death was a homicide, an action against "a defendant [who had] been convicted, found not guilty by reason of insanity or adjudicated delinquent . . . may be brought at any time." In this regard, the 2009 Amendment mirrored an earlier amendment to the Wrongful Death Act (the WDA).
We granted leave to appeal in this case, in which plaintiff, executrix of her husband's estate, filed a medical malpractice complaint alleging causes of action under the Survivor Act and the WDA. The complaint was not filed within the two-year statute of limitation applicable to bodily injury, N.J.S.A. 2A:14-2, but was filed within two years of the decedent's death. In reversing the motion judge's denial of partial summary judgment to defendant on the Survivor Act claims, we concluded that construing the 2009 Amendment literally would lead to absurd results, contrary to the Legislature's stated intention when adopting the 2009 Amendment and contrary to a number of statutes of limitation found elsewhere in Title 2A.