June 1, 2007
CECELIA MERCES, AS ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF ARTHUR J. MERCES AND CECELIA MERCES, INDIVIDUALLY, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
NEW JERSEY MANUFACTURERS INDEMNITY COMPANY, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT, AND AMERICAN MODERN HOME INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Civil Part, Monmouth County, L-2945-05.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued: May 22, 2007
Before Judges Kestin and Graves.
Plaintiffs appeal from an order granting summary judgment to defendant New Jersey Manufacturers Indemnity Company (NJM) and determining that a "step-down" clause in a business automobile insurance policy governed to limit plaintiffs' claim for uninsured motorist coverage to the $35,000 limit specified in the decedent's personal automobile insurance policy, also with NJM. The decedent was the president and sole shareholder of the company insured in the business policy.
Judge Mullaney considered the moving papers and held, in an oral decision rendered on August 1, 2006, that the Supreme Court's decision in Pinto v. New Jersey Manufacturers Ins. Co., 183 N.J. 405 (2005), controlled the outcome in this matter, and required that judgment be entered in favor of NJM. Plaintiffs argue this determination was erroneous and that, for various reasons, the step-down clause does not apply.
We have reviewed the record in the light of the written and oral arguments of the parties and prevailing legal standards, and discern no merit either in plaintiffs' argument that this case may be distinguished from Pinto or in the arguments that there are various bases for determining that the step-down clause does not apply in this instance. To the contrary, since the decedent, on whose behalf the more extensive coverage of the business policy is sought, was the very person who contracted for both policies of insurance, there is even greater reason than existed in Pinto to see him as bound by the terms of the policies which he, himself, purchased. We are in substantial agreement with Judge Mullaney's decisional rationale and affirm for those reasons.
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