Case Summary: Claims Under New Jersey’s Uniform Unclaimed Property Act

Testa v. State, A-0693-20 (App. Div. April 20, 2022)

Relying on the Uniform Unclaimed Property Act (“UUPA”), N.J.S.A. §§ 46:30B-1 to -109, plaintiff alleged he was entitled to monies that had escheated from his deceased parents’ estates to the New Jersey Unclaimed Property Administration. At the trial level, plaintiff’s complaint was dismissed under Rule 4:6-2(e), his requests for injunctive relief were denied, and his motion for reconsideration was denied.  Plaintiff, appearing pro se, then appealed the trial court’s determinations.[1]

The Appellate Division affirmed, finding that the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, the trial court lacked jurisdiction, and the challenge to the Unclaimed Property Administration’s alleged failure to immediately turn over the funds to which plaintiff claimed he was entitled was not ripe for adjudication.

First, the court noted that the Unclaimed Property Administration has 120 days following the filing of a claim to provide written notice of whether the claim is denied in whole or in part. N.J.S.A. § 46:30B-78.  Plaintiff filed his pleadings five days after submitting his claim to the Unclaimed Property Administration, and by the time the motion to dismiss was heard, only 38 days had elapsed since plaintiff’s filing.  Plaintiff did not cite any authority establishing that defendants had a “legal duty to render a determination as to plaintiff’s claim more quickly than required under the UUPA.”  Accordingly, the court held that the Unclaimed Property Administration was entitled to the full 120 days to complete its obligations, and therefore, the complaint was properly dismissed.

For similar reasons, the court also found the case was not ripe for adjudication as the matter was not yet resolved at the agency level.  Specifically ruling on plaintiff’s request for injunctive relief, the court found plaintiff did not suffer any harm, as the only harm plaintiff complained of was the purported delay in turning over monies.  The court noted that the UUPA specifically provides for payment of interest for the period the Unclaimed Property Administration holds property.  N.J.S.A. § 46:30B-79.

In addition, the court found plaintiff’s complaint was otherwise barred because he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies.  Plaintiff initiated the process under N.J.S.A. § 46:30B-77(a); however, he failed to allow for the completion of the process, and he failed to cite any exception.

Finally, the trial court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s complaint with prejudice was affirmed on jurisdictional grounds.  The court found that the Appellate Division is the proper jurisdiction for “review of any action or inaction of defendants concerning plaintiff’s claim for return of unclaimed property under the UUPA,” not the Law Division.  See K. Hovnanian Cos. of N. Central Jersey, Inc. v. N.J. Dep’t of Envtl. Prot., 379 N.J. Super. 1, 9 (App. Div. 2005); see also N.J.S.A. § 46:30B-84; R. 2:2-3(a)(2).

As to plaintiff’s reconsideration motion, the Appellate Division did not find any abuse of discretion.

[1] It is worth noting that plaintiff acknowledged to the trial court he had received $626,884.24 from the Unclaimed Property Administration.