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Blum v. Prudential Insurance Co.

Decided: September 14, 1973.

MILDRED S. BLUM, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE PRUDENTIAL INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA



Marzulli, J.s.c., Temporarily Assigned.

Marzulli

This is a motion for summary judgment brought by the defendant Prudential Insurance Company of America. The court's decision turns on the meaning of the clause "actively at work on full time" contained in an insurance policy issued by defendant to plaintiff's deceased husband. It is plaintiff's contention that her husband was "actively at work on full time" on the effective date of the policy. Defendant asserts that as a matter of law the assured was not so employed.

The facts of the case are as follows:

On October 1, 1947 Defendant issued a group life insurance policy to the trustees of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants Insurance Trust. Pursuant to the issuance of this group policy, Max L. Blum, being a partner in a participating firm, was insured in the event of death for $10,000. Plaintiff Mildred S. Blum was the designated beneficiary.

This policy and later policies were issued without a physical examination but subject to the condition that the

assured be "actively at work on full time" on the effective date of the policy. The purpose of such provision was to delay coverage to those who were incapacitated and not actively in the employ of the designated firm. The benefits payable to the designated beneficiary were raised to $20,000, effective October 1, 1954. On February 28, 1969 the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants Insurance Trust informed participating firms that they could increase death benefits receivable from $20,000 to $30,000, effective April 1, 1969. The increased coverage was dependent on the assured being "actively at work on full time" on the effective date of the policy.

During the months preceding April 1, 1969 Blum was in Florida because of a heart condition. During his stay there, his partner, Wizon, was in charge of office affairs in New Jersey. While in Florida Blum had telephone conversations and advised office clients who were in the Miami area.

Blum's health took a turn for the worse, and in late March 1969 he decided to return to New York "as the last chance." He arrived in New York on March 30 or 31, 1969 and met with his partner. On March 31, 1969 he entered Beth Israel Hospital. He died at 4:30 P.M. on April 1, 1969.

Plaintiff concedes that there being no material fact in issue, the court's sole responsibility is the construction of the phrase "actively at work on full time" on the effective date of the policy.

The court is mindful that the purpose of summary motions is to expedite matters and to avoid fruitless and frivolous litigation. At the same time, such motions should be granted only with extreme caution and only where the record shows palpably that there is no material fact in issue. Frank Rizzo, Inc. v. Alatsas, 27 N.J. 400 (1958). Concomitantly such motion should be granted where the single issue is one of law, as in the case at bar.

R. 4:46-2, 4:46-1 et seq.; Felbrant v. Able, 80 N.J. Super. 587 (App. Div. 1963). More importantly, the court, in considering such motion, will view that evidence in support of such motion most critically and that opposing the motion in a most favorable light. The reason for such perspective is to guard ...


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