On June 2, 2016, a bipartisan bill known as the Personal Injury Trust Fund Transparency Act was introduced to the Assembly Judiciary Committee of New Jersey. Per its synopsis, the act’s main purposes are to require plaintiffs to file personal injury trust claims under certain circumstances, address allocations of trust claims, and establish scheduling and discovery requirements for certain tort actions.
The bill, sponsored by assemblywoman Holly Schepisi and assemblyman Gordon M. Johnson, arose out of its sponsors’ beliefs that there is currently a lack of transparency and oversight in the personal injury trust compensation system. This, according to the bill, has resulted in suppression of evidence, inconsistent and inaccurate statements made in personal injury or tort actions by plaintiffs, and unfair compensation for certain personal injury plaintiffs. Ultimately, it is the sponsors’ intent to provide access to documentation that will enable these claims to rely upon more accurate and reliable information.
Under this bill, plaintiffs filing personal injury claims or other tort claims must, within 30 days, provide the court with a sworn statement indicating that an investigation of all personal injury trust claims has been conducted and that any personal injury trust claims that can be made on the plaintiff’s behalf have been filed. These plaintiffs must also provide the parties with copies of all trust claims materials.
Additionally, the bill allows defendants to move the court to stay proceedings if the defendant identifies additional personal injury trust claims the defendant believes the plaintiff can file. In response, the plaintiff may file the claims, explain to the court why there is an insufficient basis to file the claims identified by the defendant, or request a determination from the court that the cost of submitting these claims would exceed the reasonably anticipated recovery.
Furthermore, the bill requires the court to enter into the record before trial a list identifying each personal injury claim the plaintiff has made against a personal injury trust. These personal injury trust claims and materials are non-privileged, and if the defendant is found liable, he or she is entitled to a setoff in the amount of any money the plaintiff received from a personal injury trust and the value of any pending trust claims. Finally, sanctions are available against a plaintiff who fails to comply with the act.