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Ryan v. LCS Inc.

May 21, 1998

MARIE K. RYAN AND THOMAS R. RYAN, CO-ADMINISTRATORS AND ADMINISTRATORS AD PROSEQUENDUM OF THE ESTATE OF DANIEL J. RYAN, DECEASED, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS
v.
LCS, INC., T/A D'JAIS AND DONALD DAVISON, DEFENDANTS, AND TIG INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



Before Judges Long, Stern and Kimmelman.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kimmelman, J.A.D.

[9]    Argued May 5, 1998

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Monmouth County.

Plaintiffs Marie K. Ryan and Thomas R. Ryan appeal from a summary judgment in favor of defendant TIG Insurance Company (TIG) dismissing their complaint. We affirm.

The essential facts are undisputed. On August 31, 1991, defendant Donald Davison, Jr. (Davison), after taking barbiturates and then drinking alcoholic beverages at defendant D'Jais Bar, left the bar and came upon a car, which he proceeded to "hot wire" and then steal. He operated the stolen car at a high rate of speed down 11th Avenue in Belmar, disregarded a stop sign, and broadsided a car in which plaintiffs' son was a passenger. The son and the driver of the car were killed as a result of the collision. Davison subsequently pled guilty to the crimes of aggravated manslaughter and theft and, on January 22, 1993, was imprisoned for a term of twenty years.

After settling their complaint against Davison and D'Jais Bar, plaintiffs learned that Davison's father, a resident of Staten Island, New York, maintained a policy of automobile liability insurance issued by TIG. Plaintiffs contended that Davison was an insured individual under his father's policy, because Davison had claimed that he resided with his father at the time of the accident. Plaintiffs were granted leave to file an amended complaint joining TIG as a defendant.

On appeal, plaintiffs describe the issue for decision as follows: "[T]his case hinges on whether an insured individual is afforded liability coverage in negligently operating a stolen motor vehicle thereby causing an accident which took the lives of two innocent victims."

Plaintiffs further contend that, although the TIG policy was written in New York to cover a New York resident, it must be interpreted pursuant to relevant New Jersey case law, and on that basis should be held to be against the public policy of New Jersey.

The pertinent language of the TIG policy provides:

PART A - LIABILITY COVERAGE

A. We do not provide Liability Coverage for any person:

8. Using a vehicle without a reasonable belief that that person is entitled to do so.

[(Emphasis added).]

While TIG is authorized to do business in this State, but wrote and issued the policy in question in New York, we need not struggle with the choice-of-law issue. For purposes of this opinion, we assume the primacy of New Jersey law and public policy as urged by plaintiffs. See Canal Ins. Co. v. F.W. Cluckey Truck. Co., 295 N.J. Super. 131, 140-41 (App. Div. 1996); see also Fu v. Fu, 309 N.J. Super. 435, 441-42 (App. Div. 1998). We ...


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