In Bd. of Trustees of the Nat. Elevator Indus. Health Benefit Plan v. McLaughlin,  — F.3d –, 2014 WL 4852096 (3d Cir. Oct. 1, 2014), plaintiff argued that his medical plan could not enforce an equitable lien by agreement to recover medical expenses paid because the New Jersey Collateral Source Statute (the “NJCSS”) precluded him from collecting medical expenses from the tortfeasor who caused them.

The NJCSS provided that, in a personal injury action, any benefits the plaintiff receives from any non-tortfeasor must be “disclosed to the court and the amount thereof which duplicates any benefit contained in the award shall be deducted from any award recovered[.]” Thus, the plaintiff claimed, he could not, and did not, recover any medical expenses in his litigation.

The court first held that the Plan language allowed the Plan to recover medical expenses out of any recovery by the beneficiary, not merely an award of medical expenses. It also held that the plan language took precedence over any contrary interpretation of the NJCSS. The court went on to note, however, that medical expenses paid to an injured party subject to an equitable lien might not be a collateral source under the terms of the NJCSS. The court chided plaintiff for “assuming” that the Plan payments would have precluded recovery of medical expenses from the tortfeasor, and suggested that he should have presented the issue of the proper interpretation of the NJCSS to the court presiding over the tort action.