201-880-7213

Passenger in stolen vehicle is ‘covered’

Passengers in stolen cars who are unaware the vehicles are being driven without the owner’s permission may collect PIP and UIM insurance if they’re injured in an automobile accident, the Appellate Division has ruled. In Hardy v. Abdul-Martin, the appeals court reversed a grant of summary judgment to an insurance company that denied coverage in such a circumstance under an exclusion in the insurance contract. The court said, “A passenger cannot be expected to inquire upon entry into a vehicle, as to the status of the car and driver, unless existing facts place the passenger on notice that the use of the car is questionable.”

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No bootstrapping: MRI evidence must be introduced by qualifed doctor

In Agha v. Feiner, decided by the Appellate Division on December 18, 2007, a jury verdict following a trial on damages only in an automobile negligence action was reversed and remanded for the entry of a judgment for the defendants based on a violation of the principles set forth in Brun v. Cardoso .

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D’uh! Explicit warnings shield manufacturer from liability when ATV operator ignores warnings

In Koruba v. American Honda Motor Co., Inc., an Appellate court affirmed dismissal on summary judgment the plaintiff’s product liability failure-to-warn lawsuit where, despite an ATV manufacturer’s warnings in the owner’s manual and oral warnings by the retailer seller at the time of sale, the plaintiff attempted an extreme jump and sustained serious injury. The court found that the plaintiff’s expert opinion on the need for on-product labeling was a net opinion on neither epidemiological data or empirical research linking such need to the magnitude of risk associated with jumping. The court also found no basis for the expert’s other opinion that Honda’s promotional marketing of its ATV sent a mixed message to consumers, resulting in their failure to heed warnings actually given.

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New Jersey courts invalidate another CGL exclusion

In American Wrecking Corp. v. Burlington Ins. Co., et al., the fundamental issue was the impact of a “Cross Liability Exclusion” which was added, at the time of renewal, to the liability insurance policy purchased by plaintiff American Wrecking (AW), and provided by defendant Burlington. The question, decided November 29, 2007, was triggered by the filing of certain construction worksite personal injury claims, thus requiring the court to determine whether a fair interpretation of the Exclusion compelled indemnification or supports disclaiming. The court recites the history of the claims and the pertinent policy language and concludes that it would be against public policy and the law as the court understands it to uphold the Exclusion here.

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Workplace injuries – Exclusive remedies applies despite contract violation

In a case currently being considered for publication, Janela v. Roman Asphalt Co., the issue of dual employment arose in the context of a government construction contract. The employer/paving company, Raebeck Construction won a contract for paving at Newark Liberty International Airport, which called for it to exercise direct control over the project and to certify that it did not share staff with any other company.

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New Jersey Doctors get temporary relief from PIP Fee Schedule

A coalition of medical groups led by the Medical Society of New Jersey has succeeded in getting a temporary delay in the enforcement of a new list of fee limits for treatment of injured motorists under personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. Not surprisingly, the doctors have the support of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America-New Jersey. The significantly reduced fees were to take effect Monday October 1st, but the Appellate Division last Friday granted the stay pending arguments in Alliance for Quality Care v. New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance. Doctors complained last year when the Department of Banking and Insurance (DOBI) proposed a fee schedule that for the most part used Medicare figures rather than “the reasonable and prevailing fees of 75 percent of practitioners within the region” as stated in the statute. DOBI officials said they used the Medicare figures because they couldn’t find out doctors’ current charges; it remains to be seen whether the courts – or the legislature – will accept that explanation.

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Vicarious Liability for Homeowner

In an important decision rendered August 23, 2007, the Appellate Division concluded that where a car rented in New York and driven by a New York resident was involved in an accident in New Jersey with a New Jersey driver, New Jersey law would apply to shield the vehicle’s owner, Avis, from liability.

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Step Down Law Changes

Governor Jon S. Corzine has signed a bill, supported by both the New Jersey State Bar Association and the Association of Trial Lawyers of America-New Jersey, banning “step-down” clauses in commercial auto insurance policies. The clauses, in effect sanctioned by the New Jersey Supreme Court’s 2005 decision Pinto v. New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Co., said drivers not specifically listed in a commercial policy would be limited to the uninsured and under-insured motorist benefits in their personal policies, not the policy of the company for which they were driving. The practice was argued as unfair to both the business paying premiums for full coverage and to new employees who, through no fault of their own, weren’t listed on the policy. The bill, S-1666, was passed unanimously by both houses of the legislature and was sponsored by Senator Nicholas P. Scutari (D-Union), a trial lawyer whose practice includes personal injury.

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