On appeal from Superior Court, Law Division, Middlesex County.
Petrella, R.s. Cohen and Kestin. The opinion of the court was delivered by Petrella, P.J.A.D.
The issue in this appeal is the effect of the failure of plaintiff Jodi Granduke to accept a settlement offer where the insurance policy limits were paid into court prior to trial on behalf of a defendant thereafter found not negligent by the jury. Defendant Gerald A. Granduke (plaintiff's husband) was found by the jury to be free from negligence. The trial Judge granted defendant Granduke's motion and ordered return of the deposit
to Rider Insurance Company (Rider), which had tendered its policy limits in an offer of settlement on its insured's behalf.
On her appeal, plaintiff Jodi Granduke argues that she should be entitled to the monies paid into court by Rider, see R. 4:57, as a settlement of what she refers to as Rider's obligation to her. She also argues that Rider should be estopped from recovery of the monies deposited into court.
We reject plaintiff's arguments. The fact is that she never accepted Rider's settlement offer. The jury eventually returned a verdict of no liability with respect to her husband.
On January 13, 1986, plaintiff was riding on the back of a motorcycle driven by her husband. A vehicle driven by defendant Constantinos P. Lembesis struck the Granduke motorcycle at a "T" intersection, causing serious injuries to plaintiff.*fn1
Rider offered its $15,000 policy limit in exchange for a release in favor of defendant Granduke. Rider's attorney's October 16, 1987 letter advised plaintiff's attorney:
I am authorized by Rider Insurance Company to offer to your client, Jodi Granduke, the policy limit of $15,000. In exchange for payment of $15,000, Rider Insurance Company expects from your client, Jodi Granduke, a complete release in favor of Rider's insured, Gerald A. Granduke.
If the policy limit of $15,000 is not accepted within 30 days, I will file an appropriate Motion for leave to deposit the ...