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New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Co. v. Delta Plastics Corp.

SUPREME COURT OF NEW JERSEY


December 4, 2006

NEW JERSEY MANUFACTURERS INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
DELTA PLASTICS CORPORATION AND FLEXSOL PACKAGING CORP., DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.

On appeal from the Superior Court, Appellate Division, whose opinion is reported at 380 N.J. Super. 532 (2005).

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

(This syllabus is not part of the opinion of the Court. It has been prepared by the Office of the Clerk for the convenience of the reader. It has been neither reviewed nor approved by the Supreme Court. Please note that, in the interests of brevity, portions of any opinion may not have been summarized).

This appeal, like its companion case decided today, Charles Beseler Company v. O'Gorman & Young, Inc., et als, involves application of the C.5. exclusion in a standard Workers' Compensation and Employers Liability Insurance Policy to an employer's claim for coverage against an employee's common-law action. That exclusion bars coverage for "bodily injury intentionally caused or aggravated by [the insured]."

The facts leading up to this appeal are these. Alexis Attune, an employee of Delta Plastics (Delta), suffered bodily injury on the job while working on certain film winding equipment. New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Company (NJM) defended Delta on Attune's workers' compensation claim and paid compensation benefits as a result of his injury.

Attune also filed a products liability/personal injury complaint against various entities alleging negligence in the design, manufacture, sale, distribution, installation, repair, maintenance or modification of the machinery. Attune also named as defendants Delta and Flexol Packaging Corporation (Flexol), Delta's successor company. To avoid the workers' compensation exclusive-remedy bar of N.J.S.A. 34:15-8, Attune alleged that Delta's conduct created an "intentional wrong" and a "substantial certainty" of injury for having altered the machine and for having Attune work on the altered machine.

NJM had denied Delta's request for a defense to Attune's complaint, claiming that the C.5. exclusion in the insurance policy relieved the insurer of any obligation to defend. Thereafter, NJM filed a declaratory judgment action seeking a determination that it had no obligation to provide Delta with a defense. NJM moved for summary judgment and Delta cross-moved. The court granted NJM's motion, finding that the exclusion applied, thereby relieving NJM of the duty to defend Delta.

On appeal, a majority of the Appellate Division reversed, finding that the exclusion of coverage for injury intentionally caused by the insured did not apply to Delta's conduct that allegedly was substantially certain to cause injury. One judge dissented.

The matter comes before the Court as an appeal as of right, based on the dissent in the Appellate Division.

HELD: For the reason's set forth in Beseler v. O'Gorman & Young, Inc., also decided today, the Court affirms the judgment of the Appellate Division. The C.5. exclusion of New Jersey Manufacturer's Workers' Compensation and Employers Liability Insurance Policy does not apply to the type of conduct alleged in this case -- an unintended injury caused by an intentional wrong.

Judgment of the Appellate Division is AFFIRMED.

CHIEF JUSTICE PORITZ and JUSTICES LONG, LaVECCHIA, ZAZZALI, ALBIN, WALLACE, and RIVERA-SOTO join in this opinion.

Per curiam.

Argued September 25, 2006

This appeal comes to us as of right, based on a dissent filed in the Appellate Division. N.J. Mfrs. Ins. Co. v. Delta Plastics Corp., 380 N.J. Super. 532 (2005).

The case, like its companion, Charles Beseler Co. v. O'Gorman & Young, Inc., ___ N.J. ___ (2006), decided today, involves application of the C.5. exclusion in a standard Workers' Compensation and Employers Liability Insurance Policy to an employer's claim for coverage against an employee's common-law action. As in Beseler, the employee claims bodily injuries that resulted from employer conduct "substantially certain" to cause injury. The trial court held that the insurer did not have to provide a defense for the employer to the employee's complaint because the exclusion applied. The Appellate Division reversed. Delta Plastics Corp., supra, 380 N.J. Super. at 535. For the reasons set forth in our decision in Beseler, we affirm the judgment of the Appellate Division majority below.

CHIEF JUSTICE PORITZ and JUSTICES LONG, LaVECCHIA, ZAZZALI, ALBIN, WALLACE, and RIVERA-SOTO join in this opinion.

Chief Justice Poritz PRESIDING

20061204

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