[208 NJSuper Page 76] In this declaratory judgment action, plaintiff American Bankers Insurance Company seeks a determination that defendant Randall Stack is not eligible for uninsured motorist (UM) benefits under a standard form automobile liability policy issued to Mobile Wash Systems, an unincorporated trade-name business owned and operated by Randall Stack's father, Robert Stack. This matter came before this court by way of non-jury trial on
September 27, 1984. The facts of this case are undisputed and have been stipulated by both parties. Decision was reserved pending supplemental briefs on the legal issues.
On Labor Day, September 1, 1980, defendant, Randall Stack was injured while a passenger in a truck owned by A-1 Dependable Answering Service and operated by Matthew Karnas. The vehicle operated by Karnas was apparently forced off the road and into a pole by an unidentified truck. At the time of the accident, Randall Stack was not within the course of his employment with Mobile Wash Systems and the Karnas vehicle was not being used in furtherance of the interests of Mobile Wash Systems.
The automobile negligence cause of action against the host driver, Karnas, and the truck owner, A-1, was settled with the Bituminous Fire and Marine Insurance Company for $60,000. The settlement was for less than the policy limit of $100,000 and was broken down into $45,000 from the personal injury liability portion and $15,000 in UM benefits. Defendant Randall Stack also recovered $15,000 in additional UM benefits from his stepmother's automobile insurance carrier. The only outstanding claim is the uninsured motorist claim against plaintiff, the insurer of Mobile Wash Systems. Arbitration has been stayed pending this declaratory judgment action.
The arguments on which plaintiff's declaratory judgment action are based are two-fold. First, plaintiff contends that the status of the injured claimant Randall Stack, does not fall within the definitional criteria for uninsured motorist coverage set forth at N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4. Second, the plaintiff contends that Randall Stack's settlement with his host driver for less than the latter's full policy limit bans Randall Stack from collecting UM benefits under the American Bankers policy.
Defendant, on the other hand, argues that Randall Stack is entitled to UM benefits under the policy issued to Mobile Wash Systems. Defendant arrives at this conclusion by the multistep argument that:
1) Plaintiff is the insurer of Mobile Wash Systems;
2) Mobile Wash Systems, an unincorporated business, is the trade name of Robert Stack;
3) Robert Stack and Mobile Wash Systems are one in the same;
4) Therefore plaintiff also insured Robert Stack;
5) Therefore plaintiff must provide UM benefits to the family ...