The Supreme Court Will Decide an Administrative Law Standard of Review Issue and a Ruling Involving PIP Benefits

The Supreme Court announced that it has granted review in two new cases.  The first is In re William R. Hendrickson, Jr.  The question presented there, as phrased by the Supreme Court Clerk’s Office, is “What is the appropriate standard of appellate review of a final agency decision when the initial decision of the administrative law judge is ‘deemed adopted’ as the final agency decision pursuant to N.J.S.A. 52:14B-10(c) when the agency lacked a quorum to act?”

Hendrickson was a fire inspector whose employment was terminated by the Department of Community Affairs (“DCA”) after he used gender-specific foul language to his supervisor.  Hednrickson appealed, and an Administrative Law Judge reduced the discipline to a six-month suspension.  The DCA then appealed and the Appellate Division, in an opinion reported at 451 N.J. Super. 262 (App. Div. 2017), reversed.  The panel applied the “substantial credible evidence in the record” standard of review to the ALJ’s factual findings and de novo review to the ALJ’s legal conclusions.

In the second matter, which actually consists of two cases, Haines v. Taft and Little v. Nishimura, the question presented is “Does N.J.S.A. 39:6A-12 preclude a plaintiff from recovering medical expenses above those collectible or paid under an insured’s PIP provision in a standard automobile insurance policy, including medical expenses exceeding any elected PIP option allowed pursuant to N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4.3(d)?”  The Law Division ruled that plaintiffs were barred from recovering medical expenses that exceeded PIP benefits, but the Appellate Division reversed in an opinion reported at 450 N.J. Super. 295 (App. Div. 2017).  Now the Supreme Court will weigh in.