HARRISON et al v. TRUMP PLAZA HOTEL & CASINO et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Robert B. Kugler on 1/4/2017. (tf, )
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
(Doc. No. 161)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
ESTATE OF HARRISON, et al.,
TRUMP PLAZA HOTEL & CASINO,
Civil No. 12-6683 (RBK/KMW)
KUGLER, United States District Judge:
This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs Irwin Harrison (as executor of Brian
Harrison’s estate) and Irwin and Ilene Harrison’s (collectively “Plaintiffs”) motion for allocation
of settlement proceeds (Doc. No. 161). For the following reasons, Plaintiffs’ motion is
I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
The Court will not recite the facts of this case here, as they have been laid out in some
detail in this Court’s previous opinion addressing the parties’ respective motions for summary
judgment. See Jan. 28, 2016 Opinion at 2-4 (Doc. No. 151).
The parties remaining after this Court’s summary judgment rulings advised the Court that
the case had been fully resolved on June 14, 2016. See June 14, 2016 Perucci Letter (Doc. No.
159). The Court dismissed the case without costs and without prejudice on June 16, 2016. See
June 16, 2016 Order (Doc. No. 160). Plaintiffs filed in instant motion for allocation of settlement
proceeds on July 12, 2016. Pls.’ Mot. for Allocation (Doc. No. 161).
Plaintiffs request that their net settlement proceeds be allocated between their Wrongful
Death Act claims (N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:31-1 et seq.) and their Survival Act claims (N.J. Stat.
Ann. § 2A:15-3). Pls.’ Br. at 4 (Doc. No. 161-3). Plaintiffs ask that funeral expenses be allotted
to their survival claims, with the remainder of their net proceeds allotted to their wrongful death
claims. Pls.’ Br. at 2.
As an initial matter, the Court notes that the instant motion was filed almost a month after
the case was dismissed and closed. Since Plaintiffs filed this motion within 60 days of the order
of dismissal, the Court construes the motion for allocation of settlement proceeds to include a
motion to reopen the case for the purpose of considering the motion.
Plaintiffs’ counsel certifies that he accumulated $131,900.90 in attorney’s fees and
incurred $104,297.30 in expenses while preparing this case. Perucci Cert. ¶ 7 (Doc. No. 161-1).
After fees and expenses, the net sum available for distribution to the Plaintiffs from the $500,000
settlement is $263,801.80. Id. Counsel also avers that Plaintiffs’ funeral expenses are $11,505.
Id. ¶ 9. Therefore, Plaintiffs request that $11,505 of their settlement proceeds be allocated to
their survival claims and the remaining $252,296.80 be allocated to their wrongful death claims.
The Wrongful Death Act allows a decedent’s beneficiaries to recover damages for
pecuniary losses suffered due to the death. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:31-1. Damages recoverable
under the Wrongful Death Act include losses due to “lost support, services, assistance, care, and
guidance.” Estate of McMahon v. Turner Corp., No. 05-4389, 2007 WL 2688557, at *4 (D.N.J.
Sep. 7, 2007). Plaintiffs’ expert concluded that Plaintiffs’ economic loss resulting from their
son’s death was $570,517. Perucci Cert. ¶ 8.
The Survival Act permits executors or administrators to “recover all reasonable funeral
and burial expenses in addition to damages accrued during the lifetime of the deceased” in
actions based in tort. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:15-3. Plaintiffs suggest that, due to the decedent’s
medical insurance and the circumstances of his death, funeral expenses are the sole damages best
allocated to the survival claims. Pls.’ Br. at 3.
Decedent incurred no medical expenses due to his insurance and there is a question as to
the pain and suffering he experienced. Conversely, Plaintiffs’ expert concluded that the
beneficiaries suffered a considerable loss of support, services, assistance, guidance, and care due
to their son’s death. Therefore, the Court approves Plaintiffs’ proposed allocation of the
settlement proceeds between the wrongful death and survival actions.
As a final matter, the Court notes that the Wrongful Death Act sets out factors for the
Court to consider when apportioning recovery among the decedent’s beneficiaries to ensure an
equitable apportionment. See N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:31-4. Plaintiffs do not propose an equitable
distribution between Irwin and Ilene Harrison. Therefore, the Court allocates the $252,296.80
allocated to Plaintiffs’ wrongful death claims equally between Irwin and Ilene Harrison.
For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiffs’ motion for allocation of settlement proceeds is
GRANTED. An appropriate order shall issue.
s/ Robert B. Kugler
ROBERT B. KUGLER
United States District Judge
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