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Camacho v. Diaz

February 16, 1996

PETROLINA CAMACHO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
STEVEN DIAZ AND UNSATISFIED CLAIM AND JUDGMENT FUND BOARD, DEFENDANTS.



Miniman, J.s.c.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Miniman

Civil Action

Miniman, J.S.C.

Plaintiff Petrolina Camacho ("Camacho"), a New Jersey resident, seeks to recover personal injury protection (PIP) benefits from the New Jersey Unsatisfied Claim and Judgment Fund (the Fund) pursuant to N.J.S.A. 39:6-86.1 for injuries she sustained as a pedestrian injured in a New Jersey accident by an uninsured motorcycle registered in the State of New York. As the Fund correctly contends in this motion for summary judgment, an injured person is not entitled to recover PIP benefits from the Fund under N.J.S.A. 39:6-86.1, for injuries caused by uninsured motorcycles registered and garaged outside New Jersey and plaintiff's claims for PIP benefits from the Fund are accordingly dismissed.

The facts are undisputed. On August 31, 1993, Camacho was walking on Main Street in Paterson, New Jersey, when she was struck by a motorcycle owned and operated by defendant Steven Diaz (Diaz). Camacho suffered bodily injuries which caused her to incur approximately $30,000 in medical expenses. At the time of the accident, the motorcycle owned by Diaz was registered and garaged in the State of New York. The motorcycle at one time had been insured under a New York policy issued by the New York Central Mutual Fire Insurance Company (Central). However, on July 25, 1993, Central cancelled the insurance policy issued to Diaz due to nonpayment of premium. When Diaz struck Camacho on August 31, 1993, his motorcycle remained uninsured. Camacho filed a notice of intention to make claim with the Fund on September 30, 1993.

On March 25, 1994, Camacho filed this action against Diaz and the Fund for recovery of medical expenses and noneconomic losses. On January 30, 1995, default was entered against Diaz, although no judgment by default has yet been entered. On May 18, 1995, an arbitrator found that Camacho's medical expenses and noneconomic losses which resulted from the accident totalled $150,000 ($30,000 in medical expenses and $120,000 in noneconomic losses). The arbitrator also found that both Camacho and Diaz were negligent and that 90% of their negligence was attributable to Diaz. The arbitrator therefore awarded $135,000 to Camacho. A trial de novo was filed by the Fund on June 7, 1995.

On September 28, 1995, Camacho filed this summary judgment motion seeking a declaration that she is eligible to collect PIP benefits from the Fund. Camacho's claims against the Fund arise out of the Unsatisfied Claim and Judgment Fund Law, N.J.S.A. 39:6-61 to -91. This motion requires the court to determine the meaning of N.J.S.A. 39:6-86.1. That statute provides in pertinent part as follows:

When any person qualified to receive payments under the provisions of the "Unsatisfied Claim and Judgment Fund Law" suffers bodily injury or death as a pedestrian ... caused by a motor vehicle, including an automobile and a motorcycle, or by an object propelled therefrom, or arising out of an accident while occupying, entering into, alighting from, or using an automobile, registered or principally garaged in this State for which personal injury protection benefits under the "New Jersey Automobile Reparation Reform Act," P.L. 1972, c. 70 (C. 39:6A-1 et seq.), or section 19 of P.L. 1983, c. 362 (C. 17:28-1.3), would be payable to such person if personal injury protection coverage were in force and the damages resulting from such accident or death are not satisfied due to the personal injury protection coverage not being in effect ..., then in such event the Unsatisfied Claim and Judgment Fund shall provide ... the following benefits:

a. Medical expense benefits. Payment of all reasonable medical expense benefits in an amount not exceeding $250,000 per person per accident ....

[N.J.S.A. 39:6-86.1.]

The issue to be determined by this court is whether "registered or principally garaged in this State" limits the eligibility of a pedestrian to recover PIP benefits from the Fund.

Camacho correctly points out that N.J.S.A. 39:6-86.1 creates two categories of claimants: (1) pedestrians injured or killed by motor vehicles (pedestrians) and (2) persons injured or killed while occupying, entering into, alighting from, or using automobiles (passengers). Drawing on this distinction, Camacho argues that the phrase "registered or principally garaged in this State" only applies to passengers and that pedestrians can secure PIP benefits from the Fund irrespective of the state in which the injuring motor vehicle was registered or principally garaged. In other words, Camacho construes the section as though it had been drafted as follows:

When any person qualified to receive payments under the provisions of the "Unsatisfied Claim and Judgment Fund Law" suffers bodily injury or death

a) as a pedestrian, caused by a motor vehicle, including an automobile and a motorcycle, or by an ...


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