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Deemer Statue Leads to Dismissal of Damages (NJ)

April 6, 2018

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In <em><a href="http://blog.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Sulpizi-v.-LM-General-Insurance.pdf">Sulpizi v. LM General Insurance</a></em>, plaintiff appealed from the trial court's dismissal of his claim for PIP benefits under the Deemer Statute, and the appellate court reviewed the lower court's decision on appeal. Plaintiff, a resident of Pennsylvania, owned a vehicle that has a Pennsylvania automobile insurance policy provided by defendant. Plaintiff also owned a vacation home in New Jersey.
The underlying action arose when plaintiff was at his NJ home when he decided to mail a letter. He drove his car from his home and parked across the street from a mailbox. Plaintiff exited his vehicle and began to walk across the street towards the mailbox. As he crossed the street, he saw a pickup truck approaching him and he rushed to the side of the road. He tripped and fell on the curb near the mailbox resulting in personal injuries.
Plaintiff's Pennsylvania automobile policy issued by defendant provided $5,000 in PIP medical benefit coverage. Plaintiff submitted a PIP claim to defendant for benefits exceeding $5,000, claiming he was entitled to $250,000 in additional coverage under the Deemer Statute. NJ's Deemer Statute applies to out-of-state driver who are injured in accidents in New Jersey. Under the Deemer Statute, if you are an out-of-state resident and you are hurt in an accident in New Jersey, you will be subject to New Jersey’s restrictive limitation on lawsuit or “verbal threshold” if your insurance company is licensed to transact business in New Jersey.  The verbal threshold places limitations on the right to recovery for injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident.
The appellate court reviewed whether the Deemer Statute requires coverage for a claim involving a pedestrian injured after parking his car and while walking across the street. The court determined that the coverage under the Deemer statute demanded a substantial nexus between the out-of-state vehicle and the accident for which benefits were sought. The court opined that because plaintiff never came into contact with the oncoming vehicle and was injured as he moved out of the way, there was no nexus between his use of his vehicle and the resulting injuries. The appellate court thereby afirmed the trial courts ruling and maintained the dismissal against defendant.  Thanks to Steve Kim for his contribution to this post.  Please email <a href="mailto:BGibbons@wcmlaw.com">Brian Gibbons</a> with any questions.

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