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Keystone Insurance Co. v. Bowman

Decided: January 23, 1976.

KEYSTONE INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
WILLIAM E. BOWMAN, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT, AND AMERICAN ARBITRATION ASSOCIATION, DEFENDANT



Fritz, Seidman and Milmed. The opinion of the court was delivered by Seidman, J.A.D.

Seidman

Plaintiff Keystone Insurance Company, a Pennsylvania corporation, issued a policy of automobile insurance to defendant William E. Bowman, a resident of Pennsylvania. The policy contained a provision for protection against uninsured motorists, with a $10,000 limit.

On November 17, 1969 Bowman, who then lived in New Jersey, was riding as a passenger in a tractor-trailer owned

by his employer, Liquid Carbonic Company, and operated by a fellow employee. They were in Louisiana on a trip which had begun in Burlington in this State. The tractor-trailer was involved in a one-vehicle accident, resulting in bodily injury to Bowman.

The liability insurance carriers of both the driver and the employer disclaimed coverage for the occurrence. Thereafter, Bowman made a claim against Keystone under the uninsured motorist coverage of his own policy of automobile insurance. Keystone denied that the provision applied to this situation and refused to make payment.

Bowman then filed a claim petition with the American Arbitration Association. After an exchange of correspondence with counsel for Bowman and Keystone, the American Arbitration Association determined that Philadelphia was the proper locale for the hearings and submitted to them a list of Pennsylvania arbitrators from which a panel would be selected, rejecting Keystone's argument that if the dispute was to be the subject of arbitration (which it did not concede), it should be heard by a New Jersey panel.

Keystone's next move was the filing in this State of a complaint for a declaratory judgment (1) construing the policy of insurance and declaring the rights of the parties, (2) determining which law governed the issue of the liability of the motor vehicle operator, (3) enjoining defendants from having the issue of coverage decided by arbitration, and (4) enjoining defendants from proceeding with arbitration pending final judgment. An order was obtained directing Bowman to show cause why he should not be enjoined "according to the demand of the Complaint until the final judgment in this action."

On the return day of the order the trial judge heard the arguments of counsel and, without apparent objection by either side, proceeded to make a final determination of the case. He ordered that the matter proceed to arbitration, but before a New Jersey panel. Subsequently, on Bowman's motion for reconsideration, an amended order was entered that

"the matter be permitted to proceed through the arbitration procedure which has already been commenced in the locale which has already been determined by the American Arbitration Association." Keystone appealed from "the whole of the final judgment."

Neither party complains of the abbreviated manner in which the cause was heard and decided below, or of the trial judge's omission to set forth at the close of the case, at least orally, his findings and conclusions of law (see R. 1:7-4), or, after the filing of the notice of appeal, to file a written opinion stating the findings and conclusions (see R. 2:5-1 (b)). In any event, since the issues involved are essentially legal, we shall dispose of the case on its merits.

The insurance policy involved here contained the following provision for the arbitration of disputes arising under the ...


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