The New Jersey State Legislature recently passed two bills in an effort to overturn the Supreme Court’s Decision in Haines v. Taft. The plaintiff in Haines incurred $43,000 in medical bills as a result of a motor vehicle accident. He chose a less expensive automobile insurance policy that only provided for up to $15,000 in personal injury protection benefits (“PIP”). Haines filed a personal injury lawsuit and sought to recover the remaining $28,000 in unpaid bills from the negligent driver. The trial court barred Haines from recovering those bills because they exceeded his elected PIP coverage. On March 26, 2019, in a 3-2 decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that a motorist who elects PIP limits of less than $250,000, has no right to recover medical expenses exceeding the amount elected. You can read more about Haines v. Taft in GRSLBG&B’s Article, “You Get What You Pay For.”
As anticipated, the Supreme Court’s decision, which welcomed legislative intervention, prompted significant and immediate lobbying efforts by both sides of the bar, as well as the insurance industry, to address the implications of the Haines decision. On June 20, 2019, the New Jersey State Legislature passed the second of a series of bills seeking to overturn Haines. The two bills, S-2432 and A-5639, permit plaintiffs to recover uncompensated medical expenses in excess of their PIP limits. Bill S-2432 would take immediate effect and apply to all pending and future litigation. It contains no cost control measures. To the contrary, Bill A-5639 would require that all matters involving uncompensated medical expenses arising out of automobile accidents occurring on or after August 1, 2019 including those in excess of a standard policy affording $250,000 in PIP coverage, be subject to mandatory PIP fee schedule. It also permits recovery of health insurance deductibles and co-pays, recovery of liens asserted by health insurance companies, and would provide for attorney’s fees to a prevailing claimant in those matter involving solely economic claims such as Haines.
The implications of the proposed bills are significant to both sides of the bar. In essentially overturning the Haines decision, the proposed bills would permit a Plaintiff with PIP limits less than those provided by a “standard” policy of $250,000 to recover any uncompensated medical expenses in excess of their applicable policy limits. Additionally, there is a fee-shifting aspect which permits a successful claimant to recover reasonable and necessary legal fees incurred in recovering a purely economic claim. Finally, an aspect which is potentially favorable to the defense and insurance industry is that all medical bills in excess of the applicable PIP limits are subject to mandatory fee scheduling, thus potentially reducing any applicable recovery for uncompensated medical expenses.
The Bills are now on Governor Murphy’s desk awaiting his signature. While enactment of both these Bills will have an impact on future cases litigated in New Jersey, cases currently in suit may not be subject to the cost containing provisions of Bill A-5639. GRSLBG&B will continue to monitor this issue, and will keep you apprised of new developments as they arise.
 Hristo Zevilkaris, Esq. is an Associate in GRSLBG&B’s Litigation Department. He defends a wide variety of clients in various civil actions brought forth in New Jersey State and Federal Courts. Chris can be reached at CZevlikaris@grsl.com.
 Samantha E. Hahn, Esq. is an Associate in GRSLBG&B’s Workers’ Compensation Department. She defends employers, insurers, and third party administrators against workers’ compensation claims in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Sam can be reached at SHahn@grsl.com