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Baldassano v. High Point Insurance Co.

November 8, 2007

VINCENT F. BALDASSANO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
HIGH POINT INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Morris County, Docket No. L-2218-05.

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

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

APPROVED FOR PUBLICATION

Submitted October 17, 2007

Before Judges Parker, R. B. Coleman and Lyons.

Plaintiff Vincent F. Baldassano appeals from two orders entered on December 1, 2006: one order dismissed the complaint and all cross-claims against High Point. The second order denied plaintiff's cross-motion for partial summary judgment and granted defendant High Point Insurance Company's (High Point) motion for summary judgment.

On December 24, 2004, plaintiff was a passenger in a car involved in a one vehicle accident. He settled with the driver for the driver's $100,000 policy limit. He claimed his damages exceeded that amount, however, and made an underinsured motorist (UIM) claim under his High Point policy. The claim was denied because plaintiff's UIM limit of $100,000 per bodily injury had been met by the driver's insurance policy.

Plaintiff maintains that in 1998 when he first purchased the insurance, High Point's agent failed to advise him of the limit on UIM coverage and failed to explain that various other limits were available. The agent had previously provided coverage for plaintiff's family and told plaintiff that he would "put him on" the same type of auto insurance policy that his parents had. Plaintiff agreed. Plaintiff claims that he relied on the agent's representation in purchasing the policy.

Plaintiff further maintains that in 1998 the agent mailed him a coverage selection form with the boxes already checked, reflecting $100,000/300,000 limits of liability and UIM coverage. The form included an "Insured's Statement" on the signature page that contained the following paragraphs.*fn1

Insured's Statement

I have read the Buyer's Guide outlining the coverage options available to me. I acknowledge that the limits available for Uninsured/Underinsured Motorists Coverage have been explained to me. My choices are shown above. I agree that each of these choices will apply for all vehicles insured by my policy and to each subsequent renewal, continuation, replacement or amendment until Prudential or a representative with Prudential's binding authority receives my request that a change be made. If I am a new policyholder, I understand that:

(a) If I do not make a written choice for Item 2, I will receive the Lawsuit Threshold option;

(b) If I carry Collision or Comprehensive coverage without making a written choice for Item 7 or Item 8, I will receive the $500 deductible; and

(c) If I do not make a written choice for the PIP health insurer option in Item 4, my auto insurer will be the primary health ...


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