On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Atlantic County.
Approved for Publication May 20, 1997.
Before Judges Shebell, P.g. Levy and Braithwaite. The opinion of the court was delivered by Shebell, P.j.a.d.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shebell
The opinion of the court was delivered by
On June 1, 1992, Paul Ransom, Elizabeth Solomon, Martin Cassett, and the late Susan Massie were occupants of an ambulance owned by ProMedical Ambulance Service, Inc. ("ProMedical"). Ransom, Solomon and Massie were all employees of ProMedical, and Cassett was being transported by the ambulance service to a hospital in Philadelphia. The ambulance was travelling westbound on the Atlantic City Expressway when an unidentified vehicle cut in front of it, causing it to leave the road and overturn several times. Massie was killed and Ransom, Solomon and Cassett suffered serious injuries. The ambulance was insured by Cigna Insurance Company ("Cigna") for $350,000 single limit uninsured motorist ("UM") coverage. Ransom had UM coverage in the amount of $100,000 under a policy issued by State Farm Insurance Company ("State Farm") and Solomon had UM coverage in the amount of $50,000 under a policy issued to her by Keystone Insurance Company ("Keystone").
On September 22, 1993, plaintiff, Paul Ransom, filed this action in the Law Division seeking a declaratory judgment that "the PMA Group does not have a lien pursuant to the Workers' Compensation Statutes ... against any proceeds ... [of] his claim against the [$350,000] uninsured motorist coverage of Cigna and State Farm Insurance Companies," and also seeking a determination of the maximum available UM coverage for Paul Ransom, Elizabeth Solomon and the Estate of Susan Massie.
The Complaint named numerous indispensable parties as defendants, including the other victims and various insurance companies. Defendant, Elizabeth Solomon, answered the Complaint and demanded "judgment as to the amount of uninsured benefits available, the parties responsible for payment of the uninsured benefits and their proportionate shares and an equitable division of the available proceeds to the injured claimants ...." Defendant insurance carriers filed appropriate answers and cross-claims. On June 21, 1995 a Management Order was entered dismissing the Declaratory Judgment action with prejudice as against Cigna, because it offered the limits of its UM coverage to the injured parties. The order also set arbitration dates for the various claims.
In October 1995, the Decision and Award of Arbitrators was filed. The arbitration panel's determination of "the full value of each matter" was as follows: Ransom $97,663.51; Solomon $1,367,000; Estate of Massie $776,766; and Cassett $301,366.71. The total of the awards was $2,542,796.22. The panel also determined that "to the extent that the Awards exceed available coverage, it is the decision of the Arbitrators that there is no Workers' Compensation Lien based upon the current case law[.]"
Solomon and Ransom filed separate motions for confirmation of the arbitration award and termination of the Workers' Compensation liens. Solomon asked the court to establish payments from Keystone only for a pro-rata portion of the coverage, the sum of $43,750. *fn1 Ransom, however, sought from State Farm the difference between the amount of his arbitration award and the portion of Cigna's policy to which he was entitled, which amounts to the sum of $84,183.63.
Oral argument on the motions was heard on December 21, 1995. PMA did not appear, but filed a Motion for Reconsideration on January 24, 1996. An Order was entered on April 15, 1996 confirming the arbitration decision and distributing the Cigna policy as follows: Ransom $13,479.88; Solomon $187,712.25; Estate of Massie $107,212.11; and Cassett $41,595.76. The Judge ordered that Ransom was to receive only $21,703 as his pro-rata share of the State Farm policy and Solomon was to receive $43,750 as her pro-rata share of the Keystone policy. Although the Judge had originally ruled that the Workers' Compensation liens of PMA were to be terminated, that decision was reversed after the Motion for Reconsideration was made by PMA.
Separate appeals were filed by Solomon and Ransom, which we consolidated. Ransom and Solomon filed a joint brief and appendix, and PMA and State Farm each filed separate briefs. Market Transition Facility, Cassett, Allstate Insurance Company, Cigna, Royal Insurance Company notified the court that they would not be participating in the within appeal. Keystone and the Estate of Massie have not participated in this appeal.
Appellants contend that the trial court misinterpreted N.J.S.A. 17:28-1.1c and erred in finding that recovery under their personal automobile insurance policies must be pro rated. The statute, intended to prohibit insureds from stacking ...