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Sanner v. Government Employees Insurance Co.

Decided: July 30, 1976.

MICHAEL J. SANNER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT



Longhi, J.c.c., Temporarily Assigned.

Longhi

[143 NJSuper Page 463] This matter comes before the court on a stipulated set of facts and, by consent of the parties, is being treated as a declaratory judgment action to determine plaintiff's rights under the Personal Injury Protection Benefits (PIP) of an automobile insurance

policy issued in New Jersey pursuant to the No Fault Act.

On August 7, 1973 plaintiff Michael Sanner was a National Guardsman engaged in his two-week active tour of duty with the United States Army at Fort Dix, New Jersey. While on duty that day he was a passenger in a United States Army vehicle designated as a Ford M 151-A1 (jeep) which was involved in a collision with a civilian car owned and operated by a visitor to Fort Dix. As a result of the collision plaintiff sustained severe injuries. Medical care was and is being provided by the United States Army and the Veterans Administration, and some private medical care is also being provided. On the date of the accident plaintiff was the owner of two vehicles, both of whom were covered by an insurance policy issued by defendant Government Employees Insurance Company [GEICO].

Plaintiff has made a claim against GEICO pursuant to the PIP Benefits coverage of the policy. GEICO has and continues to refuse payment. Defendant resists payment on the basis that plaintiff (1) is not an insured person under the PIP provisions of the policy, (2) is excluded from PIP benefits since the injury resulted from acts incident to war, insurrection, rebellion or revolution, and (3) has not incurred any medical expenses.

Defendant asserts that since plaintiff was riding in a jeep owned by the U.S. Army, he is not an insured person under the PIP provision of the policy. This contention is based solely on the fact that plaintiff was injured in an automobile which was not owned by him. The act, N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4, provides that the insured person is entitled to PIP benefits so long as his injuries were sustained as a result of ownership, operation, maintenance or use of an automobile.

It is important to note that the injuries need not have been sustained by or in the named insured's automobile; coverage is extended to the named insured * * * if the bodily injuries are received as a result of any automobile accident. [ Iavicoli, No Fault and Comparative Negligence in New Jersey , 25]

The above construction has been judicially adopted. Harlan v. Fidelity & Cas. Co. , 139 N.J. Super. 226 (Law Div. 1976).

If the named insured or a member of his family is injured as a result of an accident involving an automobile, it makes no difference if the insured person was, at the time of the accident, riding in a car or on a bicycle, motorcycle, truck * * * Such is the plain language of the statute. [at 229]

The assertion by GEICO that plaintiff is barred from recovery because the injury resulted from acts incident to war, insurrection, rebellion or revolution is totally without merit. Section 1, "Exclusions," paragraph (e), of defendant's policy precludes recovery for losses resulting from "bodily injury due to war, whether or not declared, civil war, insurrection, rebellion or revolution, or to any act or condition incident to any of the foregoing." In order for the exclusion to apply defendant would have to show that there was some form of armed hostility as set forth in paragraph (e) and that plaintiff's injuries were "due to" such hostilities. The mere fact that plaintiff was a member of the Armed Forces and injured while on active duty is not sufficient.

Finally defendant asserts that plaintiff is not entitled to PIP benefits because he has not incurred medical expenses.

Plaintiff was injured while on active duty and all medical care is required to be furnished to him by the Federal Government. 10 U.S.C.A. ยง 1074. Defendant takes the position that since plaintiff is not personally responsible for the medical bills brought about by his injuries he has not incurred such bills within the meaning of the No Fault Act. It inferentially argues that the No Fault Act makes no requirement that an insurer pay to its assured ...


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