This matter arises out of a one-car accident occurring on March 2, 1985, in which plaintiff, Stephen Kennedy, suffered severe injuries. At the time of the accident, plaintiff was operating a car owned by Eddie Thompson and insured by defendant, Allstate Insurance Company. As a result of the accident, plaintiff has been diagnosed as quadriplegic, and has incurred medical bills in excess of $200,000 to date.
It is alleged that just prior to the accident, plaintiff had purchased insurance on a vehicle owned by himself from Aetna Life and Casualty Insurance Company through its agents, co-defendants Majied Insurance Company and One Stop Insurance Center. Plaintiff seeks PIP coverage from Allstate under the Allstate policy on the Thompson vehicle or under policy coverage obtained on his own vehicle. Defendant insurance companies have denied responsibility for payment of medical expenses incurred from this accident. Plaintiff moves by way of an order to show cause to expedite the hearing and decision in this action for PIP benefits so that medical care required by plaintiff will not be interrupted.
Defendant Allstate contends that plaintiff was not insured under the policy covering the automobile owned by Eddie Thompson which was being driven by plaintiff at the time of the accident. Specifically, the policy covering the Thompson vehicle contains an exclusion for PIP coverage which provides:
The insurance under this endorsement does not apply to bodily injury:
(b) to any person, who at the time of the accident, was the owner or registrant of a private passenger automobile registered or principally garaged in New Jersey that was being operated without personal injury protection coverage.
This exclusion conforms with the provisions of N.J.S.A. 39:6A-7(b)(1), which also provides:
b. An insurer may also exclude from section 4 and section 10 benefits any person having incurred injuries or death, who, at the time of the accident:
(1) Was the owner or registrant of an automobile registered or principally garaged in this State that was being operated without personal injury protection coverage. . . .
Allstate asserts that at the time of the accident on March 2, 1985, plaintiff was the owner of a 1982 Oldsmobile registered and garaged in New Jersey but which was uninsured. Plaintiff admitted during depositions that he had operated his vehicle up until the time of the accident. Therefore, Allstate has denied coverage to plaintiff pursuant to the policy exclusion.
Noting that a question of fact exists as to whether the vehicle owned by plaintiff was insured at the time of the accident, plaintiff argues that the policy and statutory exclusion does not apply to the facts of this case insofar as plaintiff's vehicle was not directly involved in the subject accident.
Hence, the controlling issue to be decided here is one of statutory interpretation. Plaintiff interprets the language of N.J.S.A. 39:6A-7(b)(1) as only excluding coverage to an owner or registrant of an automobile registered or principally garaged in this State which was being operated without PIP coverage at the precise time of the accident. To the contrary, defendant Allstate's interpretation would merely require that the vehicle was being driven without PIP coverage sometime prior to the time of the accident, in order for the exclusion to be applicable. There is no prior case law regarding this portion of the statute, ...