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In re Harris

Decided: February 27, 1976.

IN THE MATTER OF THE ARBITRATION BETWEEN MARY HARRIS AND WILLIAM HARRIS, PLAINTIFFS-RESPONDENTS,
v.
SECURITY INSURANCE GROUP, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Lynch, Larner and Horn. The opinion of the court was delivered by Lynch, P.J.A.D.

Lynch

Security Insurance Group (Security) appeals from an order confirming an arbitration award of $9,500 to Mary Harris, and $5,500 to her husband on his per quod claim, resulting from an automobile accident wherein Mrs. Harris suffered personal injuries. The accident came within the terms of the uninsured motorist endorsement of the Harris' automobile insurance policy issued by Security.

The substantive issue is whether Mr. Harris' per quod recovery is included within the policy's $10,000 limit of liability "for all damages * * * because of bodily injury sustained by one person as the result of any one accident * * *." We hold that it is so included. A fair reading of the foregoing language in the policy indicates that all damage claims, direct and consequential, resulting from bodily injury to one person (Mrs. Harris) are subject to the $10,000 limitation. Williams v. State Farm Mutual Auto. Ins. Co. , 99 N.J. Super. 377 (Law Div. 1968), aff'd 104 N.J. Super. 403 (App. Div. 1969), aff'd 54 N.J. 580.

Plaintiffs contend that the order of confirmation of the arbitrator's award should be affirmed for two of what may be termed "procedural" reasons: (1) defendant did not make a timely application to vacate the award within three months, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:24-7 and (2) none of the statutory grounds for vacating an arbitrator's award has been established, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:24-8.

The arbitration award was made on June 18, 1974. On September 17, 1974 plaintiffs moved in Superior Court to confirm the award. In response, on September 24, 1974 Security moved to vacate the award.

We hold that the court gained jurisdiction over the question of the validity of the arbitration award when plaintiffs

filed their motion for confirmation. Clearly, Security had the right to oppose confirmation, and if its opposition is valid, the award should be vacated. Analogous to this situation is that involving application of the statute of limitations, N.J.S.A. 2A:14-1 et seq. In Atlantic City Hospital v. Finkle , 110 N.J. Super. 435 (Cty. Ct. 1970), plaintiff hospital sued defendant for the price of services rendered while defendant was a patient. Defendant counterclaimed, alleging he had suffered personal injuries as a result of the hospital's negligence. The time for filing an independent action for such negligence had expired between the filing of plaintiff's complaint and the filing of defendant's counterclaim. Plaintiff moved to dismiss the counterclaim. The court permitted the counterclaim to stand, saying in part (at 440) that "where the subject of the defendant's claim is intertwined with the cause of action advanced by the complaint, timely filed, reason and logic dictate that defendant's claims should not be denied on account of the passage of time." Cf. Harr v. Allstate Ins. Co. , 54 N.J. 287, 299-300 (1969) (liberal relation-back doctrine for amendment of complaints). The same philosophy should apply here.

Emporium Area Joint School Auth. v. Anundson Constr. & Bldg. Supply Co. , 402 Pa. 81, 166 A.2d 269 (Sup. Ct. 1960), cited by plaintiff, is inapposite. Under Pennsylvania law a party can apply to confirm an arbitration award within one year of the time the award is made. 5 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 169. However, a separate section provides that a motion to vacate the award can be made only during the first three months after the award is filed. 5 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 173. Reading these two provisions together, the obvious implication is that a special burden is placed on the objector to move to vacate within three months. If he fails to so move, the other party still has nine months to ask for confirmation of his award. The statutory mechanism provided by our law allows the parties three months to initiate court proceedings by moving either to confirm or

vacate the award. Once one of the parties has thus invoked the court's jurisdiction, the other party is free to oppose the motion whether or not the three month period has expired. We therefore conclude that defendant's motion to vacate was not untimely.

We also do not find any merit in plaintiffs' contention that the statutory grounds for vacating an award have not been satisfied. N.J.S.A. ...


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