On appeal from the Division of Workers' Compensation.
Pressler, Brochin and Kleiner, JJ. The opinion of the court was delivered by Kleiner, J.s.c. (temporarily assigned).
This is a workers' compensation matter involving a dispute between the respondent-employer, T & W Suffolk, Inc., and its workers' compensation insurance carrier, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, concerning insurance coverage for a work related accident suffered by petitioner James Bright, Jr. on June 2, 1990. After Bright's claim petition was served upon Suffolk, the respondent Liberty Mutual disclaimed coverage. Suffolk thereafter joined Liberty Mutual as a respondent before the Workers' Compensation Court to litigate the issue of insurance coverage. After a plenary trial, the Judge of the Workers' Compensation Court determined that the policy of insurance had lapsed by virtue of the nonpayment by Suffolk of the insurance premium which was a condition precedent to the renewal of insurance coverage. Suffolk appeals that decision and we reverse.
Liberty Mutual first issued a policy of workers' compensation insurance to Suffolk for the period March 16, 1988, to March 16, 1989. The policy was issued pursuant to the New Jersey Workers' Compensation Insurance Plan adopted by the insurance company members of the Compensation Rating and Inspection Bureau, and approved by the Commissioner of Insurance for the benefit of employers subject to the New Jersey Workers' Compensation law (Plan).*fn1 The adoption of this Plan is authorized by N.J.S.A. 17:29C-1. The initial workers' compensation insurance policy was renewed for the period March 16, 1989, to March 16, 1990.
On January 3, 1990, Liberty Mutual forwarded a communication to Suffolk:
RE: Workers' Compensation Renewal Proposal Policy Number WC1-332-427599-010
Your present Workers' Compensation policy will expire on 3/16/90 at 12:01 AM and coverage will terminate as of that date. Assuming that continuous coverage is needed, a renewal policy has been issued, based on the latest available classifications, rates, payrolls, and any applicable experience modification.
Your renewal deposit premium is $4,132. This renewal will only take effect if the renewal deposit premium is received prior to 3/16/90. If we do not receive the renewal deposit premium by the effective date indicated, we must notify the NEW JERSEY AUTHORITIES of the termination of this coverage. Your payment and a copy of this letter should be sent directly to: LIBERTY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, P.O. BOX 7216, PHILADELPHIA, PA 19101
If this coverage is not needed, please sign and return one copy of this letter to the address below. I do not need this insurance to be renewed.