A Bountiful Harvest for the Supreme Court: Seven New Cases

The Supreme Court announced that it has granted review in seven more cases. One of those, the only civil case, is before the Court on leave to appeal, while the Court granted certification in the others. Five of the seven new cases are criminal matters. The other two are civil appeals.

Glassman v. Friedel is the leave to appeal case. The question presented there, as phrased by the Supreme Court Clerk’s office, is “Does the framework established in Ciluffo v. Middlesex General Hospital, 146 N.J. Super. 476 (App. Div. 1977), which awards a pro tanto credit to successive tortfeasors in medical malpractice cases if the plaintiff settles with the first tortfeasor, remain valid after enactment of the Comparative Negligence Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:15-5.1 to -5.8?” In an opinion reported at 465 N.J. Super. 436 (App. Div. 2020), and discussed here, the Appellate Division held that the Ciluffo framework was “a vestige of the common law and has no support in our current jurisprudence.”

The other civil case is Cooper Hospital University Medical Center v. Selective Insurance Company of America. The question presented there is “Does Medicare or a private insurance carrier have primary payment responsibility for hospital services for ongoing medical injuries arising out of an accident that occurred prior to enactment of the Medicare Second Payer Statute (MSP), 42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b)?” The Law Division granted summary judgment to the plaintiff hospital and required the defendant insurer to be primarily responsible for payment. But a three-judge Appellate Division panel, in an unpublished per curiam opinion, reversed that ruling.

In State v. Comer, the question presented is ” Is N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(b)(1), which mandates a minimum sentence of at least thirty years in prison without parole for murder, unconstitutional as applied to juvenile offenders?” Both the Law Division and an unpublished per curiam opinion of the Appellate Division rejected the claim of unconstitutionality.

The question presented in State v. Zarate, which was argued back to back with Comer and another case, also implicates the defendant’s youth: “Did the sentencing court appropriately consider defendant’s youth and was the sentence permissible given that the court did not find that defendant was permanently incorrigible?” The Appellate Division affirmed defendant’s sentence.

State v. Gonzalez presents this question: “Among other issues, did defendant invoke her right to counsel such that her oral and written statements should have been suppressed?” The Law Division denied defendant’s motion to suppress, and the Appellate Division, in a three-judge unpublished per curiam opinion, affirmed.

The two other cases, State v. Radel and State v. Terres, each present questions relating to the permissibility of a protective sweep of the defendant’s residence when he was arrested outside the home (Radel, in the driveway, and Terres, on the front porch). In Radel, the Appellate Division reversed the denial of a motion to suppress resulting from the protective sweep. That decision was reported at 465 N.J. Super. 65 (App. Div. 2020). But in Terres, a two-judge panel of the Appellate Division, in an unpublished per curiam opinion, affirmed the denial of that defendant’s motion to suppress. Now the Supreme Court will take up both cases.