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Metlife Auto and Home v. Palmer

January 06, 2004

METLIFE AUTO AND HOME, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
DONALD PALMER, DEFENDANT, AND TRAVELERS PROPERTY CASUALTY COMPANY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Cape May County, L-160-01.

Before Judges King, Lintner and Lisa.

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

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued November 13, 2003

The issue to be decided in this appeal, not previously addressed in this State, is whether an insurance carrier providing specialty insurance for an antique automobile can avoid paying pro rata contribution under the anti-stacking provision, N.J.S.A. 17:28-1.1c, by excluding uninsured motorist (UM) coverage for injuries sustained by its insured while occupying an owned vehicle not insured by the antique automobile policy. We hold that antique automobile insurance policies that limit the use of the insured vehicle and are offered at a significantly reduced premium are valid and not subject to the anti-stacking provision, N.J.S.A. 17:28-1.1c. Therefore, such policies may include other insurance clauses that exclude participation in pro rata apportionment with other available insurance. The underlying facts are undisputed.

Defendant Travelers Property Casualty Company (Travelers) paid UM benefits totaling $319,500 to its insured, Donald Palmer, for injuries he sustained while occupying a Ford van it insured. At the time of the accident, plaintiff, MetLife Auto and Home (MetLife), administered an Antique Automobile Insurance Policy underwritten by St. Paul Mercury Insurance Company (St. Paul) issued to Donald's father, Robert, insuring Robert's 1957 Ford Thunderbird at a significantly lower cost than a standard automobile liability policy.*fn1 The policy provided bodily injury and property damage liability and UM limits of $300,000 for each accident. The declaration page names Robert Palmer as the named insured and the renewal application designates the drivers as Robert Palmer and JoAnn Palmer. Travelers notified MetLife that it was seeking MetLife's participation in contribution to the extent of MetLife's pro rata share and amount equal to $73,730.80.

The liability coverage section of the MetLife policy defines"insured" as the named insured, and"any'family member' for the ownership maintenance or use of'your covered auto.'" Covered auto is defined as"[a]ny'antique vehicle','classic vehicle' or'special interest vehicle' shown in the Declarations." The section affording UM coverage provides:

A. We will pay compensatory damages which an"insured" is legally entitled to recover from the owner or operator of an"uninsured motor vehicle" because of"bodily injury":

1. Sustained by an"insured"; and

2. Caused by an accident.....

B."Insured" as used in this Part means:

1. Any person"occupying""your covered auto."....

EXCLUSIONS

A. We do not provide Uninsured Motorist Coverage for"bodily injury" ...


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