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Marano v. Sabbio

Decided: June 10, 1953.


Eastwood, Bigelow and Jayne. The opinion of the court was delivered by Eastwood, S.j.a.d.


Plaintiff's action is for breach of defendant's oral agreement to "bind himself to secure the plaintiff against any burglary of cash from plaintiff's premises to the extent of $1000." The Hudson County District Court, sitting without a jury, held that the oral agreement was valid and enforceable and awarded damages in the sum of $750. The defendant appeals from the ensuing judgment.

The appeal has been submitted on a statement of the evidence and proceedings in lieu of stenographic transcript under Rule 1:2-23.

The plaintiff's husband, Jerry Marano, a member of the New Jersey Bar, was the only witness for the plaintiff. Marano, who shared offices with Sabbio, testified that on November 28, 1951, when his wife purchased the business in question, he submitted various insurance policies which the prior owner carried on the premises to the defendant, an insurance broker, requesting the defendant to cover the wife's store with insurance of the same types; that he specifically said to the defendant that he wanted robbery insurance on his wife's store and the defendant responded by saying "You're covered"; that on or about December 9, 1951, when he received and paid for the plate glass and liability compensation policies from the defendant, he said to the defendant, "What about the robbery policy?"; that the defendant replied "There is a binder on it -- you're covered," but that the policy had not been received from the company; that he offered to pay for the premium on the burglary insurance, but defendant told him to wait until he delivered the policy; that he informed the defendant of the burglary loss that had occurred on March 21, 1952, whereupon the defendant prepared a proof of loss form; that about two months later he asked the defendant about the payment of the loss and the defendant then made out another proof of loss form with the name of the insurance company omitted and in

which the figure of $750 appeared. It finally developed that the defendant had failed to negotiate any contract for burglary coverage.

The defendant, the only witness in his behalf, testified that among the policies belonging to the prior owner which Marano brought to him, was a burglary policy, and Marano stated he wanted such insurance coverage as was needed; that he told Marano that he could get him covered on all the types of insurance but not for burglary, stating to him that "This burglary policy will be tough"; that he unsuccessfully made application through three underwriters of insurance for burglary coverage on the plaintiff's premises; that neither on December 9, 1951, nor at any other time, when paid the premiums for the other policies, was he paid for any burglary insurance coverage. Sabbio denied that he prepared or made up any proof of loss form on March 24, 1952, or at any other time.

At the conclusion of the plaintiff's case and at the end of the entire case, the defendant unsuccessfully moved for judgment of dismissal on the ground that if the court construed the dealings between the parties to be an agreement by the defendant to secure the plaintiff from a loss by burglary, such an agreement would be void as against the public policy of this State, which by law prohibits an individual from engaging in the business of insurance without authority from the Commissioner of Banking and Insurance and makes it a misdemeanor to do so, and that such an agreement came within the statute of frauds and, not being in writing was, therefore, void.

The defendant contends that the court erred: (1) in denying the two motions for judgment of dismissal; that there was no binding agreement between the parties because there was no consideration shown; (2) in finding that the agreement was absolute in nature, that the defendant would secure burglary insurance coverage from an authorized company; (3) in finding that the defendant breached his agreement, and (4) in excluding certain letters received from

agencies concerning the insurance in question and their unwillingness to write the policy.

The trial court found that the oral undertaking of the defendant was, in fact, an agreement to secure insurance in an authorized company rather than an agreement, as defendant urges, to try to secure insurance; that defendant breached his contract and, as a result of the robbery, plaintiff suffered damages to the extent of $750.

While the plaintiff's complaint is inartistically drawn, the purport of the allegations are that the defendant agreed to secure burglary insurance to protect the plaintiff against loss of cash in the cash register. In fact, ...

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