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Breen v. New Jersey Manufacturers Indemnity Insurance Co.

Decided: April 2, 1969.

JOHN J. BREEN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NEW JERSEY MANUFACTURERS INDEMNITY INSURANCE COMPANY, A CORPORATION OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANT



Civil action on motion for summary judgment.

Malech, J.s.c.

Malech

This case is before the court upon motion by the defendant for summary judgment on the ground that plaintiff's claim is barred by the statute of limitations (N.J.S. 2 A:14-1).

John J. Breen, an attorney at law of New Jersey, was injured in an automobile accident which occurred on February 21, 1957, in New Jersey. The injuries were caused by the negligence of one Milton Stern in operating his motor vehicle. An automobile Policy No. 57 15107 CZ of New

Jersey Manufacturers Indemnity Insurance Company, a standard family automobile policy, insuring Milton Stern was in force and effect on February 21, 1957. The insurance policy was not under seal. Immediately after the happening of the accident Milton Stern gave oral notice of the accident to the defendant insurance company. On August 15, 1957, John J. Breen advised Milton Stern that his injuries were more serious than he had realized. On August 19, 1957, Milton Stern submitted a written report to the defendant insurance company of the accident.

On February 21, 1958, one year after the date of the accident and before suit was instituted, John J. Breen was examined by Dr. Edward Dana on behalf of the defendant insurance company. On March 28, 1958, the defendant insurance company forwarded a letter to its assured, Milton Stern, advising him that it intended to disclaim coverage under its policy because of late notice given by Stern to it. Thereafter on February 13, 1959, John J. Breen instituted suit against Milton Stern in the Superior Court of New Jersey for his injuries caused by the accident on February 21, 1957.

On December 6, 1960, a jury verdict was entered in favor of John J. Breen, plaintiff, against the defendant, Milton Stern, in the sum of $9,000.00 together with costs of suit, for the injuries resulting from the accident. This judgment has never been paid.

On November 15, 1968, John J. Breen, the plaintiff herein, instituted this suit against the defendant insurance company to recover payment upon the judgment dated December 6, 1960. It is to be noted that the instant suit by plaintiff against the defendant insurance company was instituted more than seven years and 11 months after plaintiff had obtained his judgment against the defendant's insured, Milton Stern.

The only issue to be determined by the court is the applicability of the statute of limitations in a suit by a third party or beneficiary judgment creditor against the tortfeasor's insurance company. Both parties concede that this

precise issue is novel in New Jersey. The parties' briefs do not disclose any case relevant to the issue involved.

Plaintiff's first contention is that the applicable statute of limitations is N.J.S. 2 A:14-5, which provides for a limitation period of 20 years; plaintiff contending that the insurer undertakes to satisfy any judgment rendered against its insured. Plaintiff argues that in common understanding, such undertaking by the insurance company must ...


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