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Eastern Seaboard Pile Driving Corp. v. New Jersey Property-Liability Insurance Guaranty Association

Decided: October 9, 1980.

EASTERN SEABOARD PILE DRIVING CORPORATION, A CORPORATION OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE AUTHORIZED TO DO BUSINESS IN NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
NEW JERSEY PROPERTY-LIABILITY INSURANCE GUARANTY ASSOCIATION, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



On appeal from Superior Court, Law Division, Hudson County, whose published opinions appear at 165 N.J. Super. 358 and 167 N.J. Super. 324.

Seidman, Antell and Lane. The opinion of the court was delivered by Antell, J.A.D.

Antell

[175 NJSuper Page 590] Plaintiff's steel dredging barge, the Beverly M, was damaged while being used in the Atlantic Ocean off Long Island, New York, and claims arising therefrom were asserted against a number of insurance carriers covering the risk. One of these, Interstate Insurance Co., was insolvent. Accordingly, Interstate's portion of plaintiff's claim was asserted by plaintiff

against defendant, an entity created under the New Jersey Property-Liability Insurance Guaranty Association Act, N.J.S.A. 17:30A-1 et seq., to guaranty payment of covered claims under policies of insurance where the insurer becomes insolvent. The question raised by this suit for declaratory judgment is whether plaintiff presents a "covered claim" within the meaning of the act. The dispute focuses particularly upon whether the following conditions of eligibility posited by N.J.S.A. 17:30A-5 d have been met:

(1) The claimant or insured is a resident of this State at the time of the insured event; or (2) the property from which the claim arises is permanently located in this State.

Defendant appeals from an order dated March 15, 1979 in the Law Division denying its motion for summary judgment and expressly determining that the barge was permanently located within the State of New Jersey for purposes of the act, consistent with its formal opinion published at 167 N.J. Super. 324. Plaintiff cross-appeals from a separate order dated January 23, 1979 denying its motion for summary judgment and granting defendant's motion for partial summary judgment upon the express determination that plaintiff is not a resident of the State of New Jersey for purposes of the act. The court's written opinion in connection therewith appears at 165 N.J. Super. 358. We deal first with plaintiff's cross-appeal.

In reaching its conclusion that plaintiff, a Delaware corporation duly registered to transact business in New Jersey, was not a "resident of this State" within the intent of the statute, the Law Division determined that the statutory language contemplated only domestic corporations of this State. It considered itself bound to this proposition by State v. Garford Trucking, Inc. , 4 N.J. 346 (1950), and Red Star Express Lines v. DeStefano , 104 N.J. Super. 102 (App.Div.1968). We disagree that either of these decisions require the result reached.

In Garford Trucking defendant, a New Jersey corporation, was charged with operating an unregistered motor vehicle in this State in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:3-4. The defendant maintained that because it was licensed to do business in a number of

other states along the eastern seaboard, actively transacted business there and had actually registered its vehicle in one of those states, it was a "nonresident," and therefore exempt under N.J.S.A. 39:3-15 from New Jersey's registration requirement. The decision holds only that a domestic corporation cannot become a "nonresident" of the state of its creation for the reason that it may not shed "the residence which is inseparable from domicile." Id. 4 N.J. at 351. Nowhere does it suggest that a corporation may not become a resident of a jurisdiction other than that of its origin. Its explanatory comments are clearly to the contrary:

Unlike a natural person, a corporate entity cannot change its domicile at will, although it may have a situs or residence elsewhere for the transaction of its business. [at 352-353]

Ordinarily, domicile includes residence; but one may have several residences or places of abode or business. [at 353]

Citing the foregoing opinion as authority, its author again stated in In re Roche , 16 N.J. 579 (1954), that although a domestic corporation does not become a nonresident of its domiciliary state by transacting business in another sovereignty, "It may have a residence ...


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