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Hutnick v. ARI Mutual Insurance Co.

April 4, 2007

MICHAEL HUTNICK, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
ARI MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Docket No. MID-L-6327-05.

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

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

APPROVED FOR PUBLICATION

Argued February 15, 2007

Before Judges Lefelt, Parrillo and Sapp-Peterson.

Underinsured motorist (UIM) insurer, ARI Mutual Insurance Company (ARI or defendant), appeals from a December 13, 2005 order of the Law Division allowing the UIM claim of insured Michael Hutnick (plaintiff or Hutnick) to proceed to arbitration and rejecting ARI's contention that its insured's Longworth notification*fn1 was insufficient and therefore excused the insurer from UIM liability. We affirm.

The essential facts are not really in dispute. Plaintiff was injured in an automobile accident on July 2, 2004, while operating a van owned by his company and insured by ARI under a business auto policy with $500,000 in UIM coverage. The vehicle that hit plaintiff was insured by American International Companies (AIG) with policy limits of $15,000.

Plaintiff's policy, effective January 1, 2004, contained an endorsement providing:

2. With respect to damages resulting from an "accident" with an "underinsured motor vehicle", we will pay under this coverage only if a. or b. below applies:

a. The limit of any applicable liability bonds or policies have been exhausted by judgments or payments; or

b. A tentative settlement has been made between an "insured" and the insurer of an "underinsured motor vehicle" and we:

(1) Have been given prompt written notice of such tentative settlement; and

(2) Advance payment to the "insured" in an amount equal to the tentative settlement within 30 days after receipt of notification.

Another section, entitled "Changes In Conditions" provides:

The Conditions are changed for Uninsured and Underinsured Motorists ...


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