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Ferrero v. New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Co.

June 25, 2007

STEVEN FERRERO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
NEW JERSEY MANUFACTURERS INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Special Civil Part, Mercer County, DC-8342-05.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued February 27, 2007

Before Judges Weissbard and Payne.

Plaintiff, Steven Ferrero, appeals from an order of summary judgment entered against him on his collision claim against his own automobile insurer, defendant, New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Company (NJM). We affirm.

The record discloses that, on December 4, 2003, Ferrero was involved in an auto accident with a car driven by Gretchen Patrick, who was also insured by NJM. Liability for the accident was disputed. Ferrero's car sustained minor property damage. Both parties promptly reported the accident to NJM.

Ferrero, who filed a collision claim pursuant to his own insurance coverage, was authorized by NJM to obtain a repair estimate from J&D Auto Repair in Washington, New Jersey. The estimate, which was completed on February 7, 2004, set the cost of repairs at a total amount of $1,556.65. The record indicates that J&D had also prepared an earlier, undated, estimate for the repairs prior to the time that the claim had been assigned to it by NJM.*fn1 However, it was in a slightly lesser amount and was not complete, since it lacked photographs of the damage. Moreover, Ferrero states that on January 2, 2004, he spoke with a claims representative at NJM and informed her that the initial estimate had not included certain wheel damage to his vehicle. Thus, a revised estimate was required.

J&D's final estimate was received by NJM on February 17, 2004. A check in the amount of $1,056.65 (the total cost of repair minus a $500 deductible) was issued by NJM on February 20, 2004 and was mailed to Ferrero. The check was received by Ferrero on February 23, 2004.

Simultaneously, NJM, finding fault to be unclear, sought to settle any liability claim between Ferrero and Patrick by payment to Ferrero of one-half of his deductible. By letter dated February 23, 2004, Ferrero advised NJM that the settlement offer was not acceptable.

In early March 2004, Ferrero returned the check tendered by NJM for the cost of repairs. Additionally, he filed a complaint against NJM with the Department of Banking and Insurance, which declined to act. Ferrero then instituted suit in the Special Civil Part by complaint dated November 7, 2005.

Following a discovery dispute, occasioned by Ferrero's irrelevant and unreasonable discovery demands and resolved by the issuance of a protective order by the judge, NJM filed a motion for summary judgment, which was granted on March 2, 2006.

On appeal, Ferrero raises the following arguments:

ARGUMENT #1

- Claimant vehemently challenges the granting of a broad Protective Order to the Defendant by the Mercer County Special Civil Part Court while the Defendant remained uncooperative and refused to comply with ...


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