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Clement v. Atlantic Casualty Insurance Co.

Decided: November 2, 1953.

NORMA ROBERTS CLEMENT, FORMERLY KNOWN AS NORMA ROBERTS, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
ATLANTIC CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



On appeal from the Superior Court, Law Division, Essex County.

For affirmance -- Chief Justice Vanderbilt, and Justices Heher, Oliphant, Wachenfeld, Burling, Jacobs and Brennan. For reversal -- None. The opinion of the court was delivered by Wachenfeld, J.

Wachenfeld

The appellant, an insurance company, in 1948 issued its policy to Joseph Clement, a New Jersey resident, insuring him against loss in the operation of his automobile.

While driving his car covered by the policy, Clement was involved in an accident in New York, running into a parked car. His financee, Norma Roberts, the respondent, a passenger, was injured. She brought suit in the Supreme Court of New York against both Clement and the owner of the parked car.

Service of process was made on Clement June 3, 1949 in New York State, where he daily visited his fiancee at her home. The following day they married and became domiciled in New Jersey.

The case was tried in the Supreme Court, New York County, in May 1952, resulting in a verdict against Clement for $1,500, after it had been disclosed that the parked car owner had effected a settlement with the respondent for $2,000.

Because of the marriage, the appellant disclaimed liability on the policy and refused payment. The respondent accordingly brought this suit to recover the sum due.

Cross-motions for summary judgment were made under Rule 3:56, now R.R. 4:58, and the respondent prevailed. Clement v. Atlantic Casualty Ins. Co., 25 N.J. Super. 96 (Essex Cty. Ct. 1953). From the judgment so entered this appeal is taken, the case being certified here on our own motion.

The appellant, by way of defense, says: the policy of insurance does not cover the claim made; no action can be maintained against the insurance company by the spouse of the assured; the action was not maintainable for failure to comply with conditions precedent, and issues of fact were raised which could not be decided on a motion for summary judgment unsupported by affidavits.

Turning to the contract in question, the appellant relies particularly upon the clause "by reason of liability imposed upon him by law for damages * * * arising out of the ownership, maintenance or use of the automobile," and contends "liability imposed by law" refers to liability as determined exclusively by the law of the State of New Jersey.

We cannot agree with this suggestion. Generally, the rule of the lex loci delicti, or the law of the place where the tort or wrong is committed, controls and the rights and liabilities arising out of an automobile accident are governed by the law of the state in which the accident occurs regardless of where the insurance ...


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