On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County.
Antell, J. H. Coleman and Simpson. The opinion of the court was delivered by Coleman, J.h., J.A.D. Simpson, J.A.D., dissenting.
The question raised by this appeal is whether an insurance company is obligated to advise an insured of the expiration of a fire insurance policy. The trial judge granted the insured summary judgment holding that the company is so obligated. The insurance company has appealed. We now affirm for the reasons which follow.
The facts in this case are undisputed. On January 26, 1979 plaintiff, Barbara Corporation, purchased a policy of fire insurance from defendant Continental insuring a car wash owned by plaintiff, located in Gloucester Township, N.J. The policy was obtained through defendant Maneely who was acting pursuant to a "Solicitor's Agreement" with defendant Stockwell. Stockwell issued the policy pursuant to a "Preferred Agency Agreement" with Continental.
Upon expiration of the initial policy's one year term, Stockwell forwarded a new policy and an invoice for premium to Maneely on January 15, 1980 who then forwarded a premium bill to plaintiff. Plaintiff paid the premium on January 23, 1980 thereby renewing the policy for an additional year. At the end of the second year, however, no demand for premium or notice in any other form was forwarded to plaintiff advising that the policy would expire on January 26, 1981. A $95,000 fire loss occurred at the premises on June 13, 1981. Plaintiff requested payment under the policy and Continental disclaimed, contending
the policy expired January 26, 1981. All parties agree that the fire damage would have been covered by the policy had it been renewed.
Plaintiff filed a complaint in the Law Division for breach of contract of insurance. Defendants cross-claimed for contribution and indemnification. Cross motions for summary judgments were filed. R. 4:46. The Law Division granted summary judgment to plaintiff, Maneely and Stockwell.
In this appeal Continental argues that N.J.A.C. 11:1-5.5 is inapplicable to this case. The enabling legislation for the foregoing regulation is N.J.S.A. 17:29C-1 which grants the Commissioner of Insurance the authority to promulgate a rule or regulation to require insurance companies doing business in this State to include a provision in the policy requiring the insurer to give 30 days written notice to the insured of an intent not to renew a fire insurance policy. The statute provides:
17:29C-1. Policy provision; written notice
In addition to the powers conferred upon him by any other law, the Commissioner of Banking and Insurance is hereby authorized and empowered to direct, by rule or regulation as hereinafter provided, that insurance companies organized under the laws of this State or organized to do business in this State, shall include provisions in policies of insurance written by any such company in this State, whereby 30 days' written notice shall be given; (1) to the insured, of the cancellation of any such policy; and, (2) to any designated mortgagee not named therein as the insured of the cancellation of any interest in such policy; and, (3) to the insured, of intent not to renew any such policy.
The Commissioner promulgated such a regulation requiring 30 days notice of cancellation or an intent not to renew fire and certain casualty insurance coverage. That regulation, known as ...