KLRW obtains summary judgment on claim for PIP benefits under commercial auto policy

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On January 3, 2018, KLRW obtained summary judgment in favor of its client, ARI Insurance Company, on a $186,000 claim for personal injury protection (“PIP”) benefits in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Essex County.

The case involved a pedestrian that was struck by a tractor-trailer that was making a delivery at a warehouse in Irvington, New Jersey. Who owned or operated the tractor-trailer at the time of the accident was in dispute. Plaintiff alleged that ARI’s insured owned the tractor involved in the accident. As the plaintiff pedestrian had no insurance, he sought stranger pedestrian PIP benefits from ARI. ARI denied the claim as the insured denied involvement in the delivery and accident, and the ARI Policy did not provide PIP benefits.

For purpose of summary judgment only, ARI conceded ownership; however, it argued that because the accident occurred prior to April 1, 2016, NJPLIGA, not ARI, owed PIP benefits because of an Order issued on July 21, 2015, by the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance (“DOBI”). That Order provided that NJPLIGA would be responsible for all pedestrian PIP claims that were made between 2003 and April 1, 2016. ARI argued that based on the 2003 Auto Reform Act (the “Act”), DOBI’s actions with respect to stranger pedestrian PIP coverage were valid, reasonable and within its statutory authority. Plaintiff argued that N.J.S.A. 17:28-1.3 was not amended under the Act and required ARI to pay stranger pedestrian PIP benefits.

After reviewing a letter from DOBI dated July 21, 2004, and the July 21, 2015 Order, the Court agreed with ARI’s position. The Court found that on November 8, 2013, the date of plaintiff’s accident, ARI was not required to provide stranger pedestrian PIP coverage under its commercial auto policy. The Court found no reason to question DOBI’s interpretation of the effect of the 2003 Auto Reform on N.J.S.A. 17:28-1.3, and that its interpretation was a valid exercise of its power that “must be afforded great weight and deference.“

KLRW’s team consisted of Julia Talarick and Corey Jeffers.