The primary issue herein is whether an insurance carrier which issues a policy containing uninsured motorist coverage must exhaust these benefits before a semi-insured public entity is required to provide benefits. The court holds that it does not, and the benefits must be pro rated the same as if the public entity were insured by a commercial insurance policy.
STIPULATED STATEMENT OF FACTS
This matter involves a claim for uninsured motorist benefits by plaintiffs Kenneth Rox and Wilfredo Rodriguez arising out of a motor vehicle accident which occurred on May 16, 1988 on Summer Avenue in Newark, New Jersey. Plaintiffs Kenneth Rox and Wilfredo Rodriguez were detectives for the City of Newark ("City") on duty in an unmarked unit at the time of the accident. There was a collision between the plaintiffs' patrol car and a motor vehicle operated by Julio Vasquez. The vehicle, owned by Judith A. Katz, had been reported stolen in Woodbridge prior to the accident. Mr. Vazquez had been followed by another police cruiser through various streets in Newark prior to the accident.
Plaintiff Rox had a personal policy of automobile liability insurance issued by Allstate Insurance Company ("Allstate")
providing for uninsured motorist benefits. Plaintiff Rodriguez had a personal policy of automobile liability insurance issued by Prudential Insurance Company ("Prudential"), also providing for uninsured motorist benefits. Plaintiffs seek a judgment declaring that all defendants be ordered to arbitrate the uninsured motorist claims and that payment of any award be made on a pro rata basis for each plaintiff between Allstate and the City and Prudential and the City, respectively. In the alternative, plaintiffs seek to compel Allstate and Prudential to provide sole uninsured motorist benefits to each of the plaintiffs without any pro rata share to be borne by the City. Plaintiffs also seek a judgment declaring that defendants pay attorneys fees and costs as well as interest on any monies paid pursuant to the Uninsured Motorist Provisions of the Allstate and Prudential policies.
Defendant City takes the position that it does provide uninsured motorist coverage in the amount of $15,000 per person and $30,000 per occurrence for both plaintiffs related to the subject accident but that such coverage would be excess over the coverage provided by Allstate and Prudential. Defendant City also claims it is not required to participate in arbitration proceedings. Allstate and Prudential take the position that they do provide uninsured motorist coverage to their respective insured, are willing to arbitrate the uninsured motorist claims and agree to provide coverage on a pro rata basis up to the total amount of the highest coverage available to the respective plaintiffs.
Since Allstate provides $100,000 in uninsured motorist coverage, it takes the position that plaintiff Rox would be entitled to recover uninsured motorist benefits up to the sum of $100,000 with a pro rata contribution being made by City. Prudential takes the same position except that the amount of its coverage has not been disclosed to the Court.
ALLEGATIONS OF THE COMPLAINT
The complaint seeks a judgment declaring:
1. Defendants be ordered to arbitrate the personal injury claims of the plaintiffs and that payment be made on a pro rata basis for each plaintiff between defendant Allstate Insurance Company and the City of Newark, and the Prudential Insurance Company and the City of Newark, respectively.
2. That the policy of insurance held by the Allstate Insurance Company for plaintiff Kenneth Rox and the policy of insurance held by the Prudential Insurance Company for plaintiff Wilfredo Rodriguez provides sole uninsured motorist benefit to each of the plaintiffs without any pro rata share to be borne by defendant City of Newark.
3. That the defendants pay reasonable attorneys' fees for the prosecution of this claim and all matters connected therewith.
4. That the defendants pay all costs connected with this lawsuit and all matters connected therewith.
5. That defendants pay interest on any monies paid pursuant to the uninsured motorist provisions as of the date of the ...