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Joyner v. Nissan 10

Decided: December 19, 1991.

DEBORAH JOYNER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NISSAN 10 INC., RICHARD E. BULEN, EDDIE GREEN, UNSATISFIED CLAIM & JUDGMENT FUND BD., AND KENNETH D. MERIN, COMM. OF INS., DEFENDANTS



PASSAIC COUNTY

Martin, J.s.c.

Martin

MARTIN, J.S.C.

The Court is called upon to interpret the scope of N.J.S.A. 39:6-70(c). Plaintiff, Deborah Joyner, instituted this personal injury action following an accident which occurred on June 14,

1988 in the municipality of Passaic. Plaintiff was a passenger in a 1987 Nissan operated by defendant Eddie Green. Green lost control of the vehicle and struck a building thereby causing plaintiff's injuries. The 1987 Nissan was stolen at the time of the accident. It was owned by defendant Nissan 10, Inc., and utilized by defendant, Richard Bulen as agent, servant and/or employee of Nissan. The June 13, 1988 theft was reported to the East Orange Police Dept. by defendant Bulen on June 14, 1988. For purposes of this motion, it is stipulated that Ms. Joyner did not know the vehicle was stolen.

The insurance company for the Bulen vehicle denied personal injury protection and liability insurance coverage payment benefits to the plaintiff. Plaintiff then sought relief from the Unsatisfied Claim and Judgment Fund. (hereafter UCJF).

The Commission of Insurance and the UCJF Board now move for summary judgment alleging plaintiff's ineligibility for benefits because she was an occupant in a stolen vehicle at the time of the accident.

Discussion

The issue is whether an otherwise uninsured passenger in a stolen vehicle, having no knowledge of the vehicle's stolen status, may receive an award from the UCJF for injuries sustained in an automobile accident.

There are no genuine issues of material fact in dispute. The issue to be decided is purely legal and may be treated summarily. Judson v. People's Bank & Trust Co. of Westfield, 17 N.J. 67, 110 A.2d 24 (1954).

The UCJF was created on April 1, 1953. N.J.S.A. 39:6-60. "The legislative purpose in establishing the Fund was to provide a measure of relief to persons who sustain losses or injuries inflicted by financially irresponsible or unidentified operators of motor vehicles where such persons would otherwise be remediless." Hartford Ins. Co. v. Allstate, 127 N.J. Super. 460, 465, 317 A.2d 760 (App.Div. 1974). Under the UCJF

law, only a qualified person as defined under the statute may seek ...


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