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Huhn v. Estate of Altieri


March 31, 2008


On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Monmouth County, L-2015-04.

Per curiam.


Argued April 18, 2007

Before Judges Stern, Collester and Lyons.

In this personal injury action following entry of final judgment by consent, plaintiff Kenneth Huhn and intervenor First Trenton Indemnity Insurance Company (First Trenton) appeal from the portion of the September 13, 2005, order by Judge Jamie S. Perri granting defendant Joseph Altieri's motion for summary judgment on allegations of agency and negligent entrustment as set forth by plaintiff in the second count of his original complaint and from the March 3, 2006 order granting declaratory judgment in favor of defendant Allstate Insurance Company. They further appeal the denial of cross-motions to vacate the court's September 13, 2005 order pursuant to R. 4:50-1.

The facts are undisputed, and the narrative begins with an automobile accident at about 2:30 p.m. on January 17, 2004. Plaintiff Kenneth Huhn and his wife Sonya, residents of Colts Neck, New Jersey, were traveling north in a 2001 BMW operated by Sonya on Schoolhouse Road in Manchester Township. The weather was clear and the road surface dry. At the same time, Peter Altieri of Whiting, New Jersey was traveling in the southbound lane driving a 1991 Toyota Celica with Connecticut license plates and registered in Connecticut to his son, defendant Joseph Altieri. The Celica suddenly swerved into the northbound lane and struck the Huhn car head-on. Police and EMT personnel responded to the scene of the severe accident, and the occupants of both vehicles were transported to Jersey Shore University Medical Center for treatment. On arrival, Peter Altieri was pronounced dead. He was eighty-nine years old. Plaintiff Kenneth Huhn suffered severe personal injuries. The fatal motor vehicle police report found that the negligent operation by Peter Altieri caused the accident.

The Celica driven by Peter Altieri was purchased by his son Joseph in 1991. At that time Joseph was a resident of Connecticut, and he registered the vehicle in that state. Through a Connecticut insurance agency he negotiated and purchased two Allstate insurance policies. The first was an automobile policy covering the Celica with a bodily injury limit of $100,000 per person per accident. There is no issue as to the applicability and availability of this policy, and the policy limit was tendered by Allstate. The second insurance policy was a personal umbrella policy (PUP) of $1 million, and this policy is much in controversy.

In September 2000, Joseph bought a second home in Arizona while maintaining his residence in Connecticut. Two years later he decided to live primarily in Arizona but keep his house in Connecticut while considering making Arizona his permanent home. His father Peter was a widower living alone in a trailer home in Whiting. In 2002, Peter totaled his car in an accident, the details of which are not on the record, and it is not known whether Peter was at fault.

In November 2002, Joseph left the 1991 Celica at his father's home in Whiting for storage as well as for his own use when he would come to New Jersey, as he did on at least two occasions. He also gave his father permission to use the car in his absence. At this time Peter had use of a friend's car, and he told Joseph that he did not like driving the Celica. However, when his friend died, Peter began using the Celica.

In September 2003, Joseph was living in Arizona, and he renewed both the Allstate automobile policy and the PUP. The policies were mailed to him at his address in Cottonwood, Arizona. In late 2003, Joseph decided that he would live permanently in Arizona and told Peter he wanted to sell the Celica. After Peter said he wanted to buy it, they agreed on a price of $2,500. Joseph signed over title to the car to his father and mailed it to him on January 4, 2004, thirteen days before the accident.

After the accident, the Celica certificate of title was found in the glove compartment. Peter had signed it as purchaser, although he had not paid the $2,500 purchase price. Peter had not obtained new insurance, but he told Joseph he was in the process of doing so. The Celica was still registered in Connecticut, even though it had not been housed or driven in that state since November 2002, when it was first garaged with Peter in New Jersey. The Connecticut registration was due to expire in May, 2004, four months after the accident, and Joseph's automobile insurance policy covering the Celica was to expire on January 21, 2004, four days after the accident.

Joseph testified in his deposition that aside from Peter's 2002 accident, he was aware of only one previous accident involving his father, which occurred in 1995 when his father was rear-ended on the Garden State Parkway. To his knowledge Peter had no points on his driver's license or any moving violations. He was also unaware of any medical condition or physical inability of his father to operate a motor vehicle. He described his father's health as "robust" in his advanced age. He said Peter was returning from visiting his cousin in Howell when the accident occurred.

On April 20, 2004, plaintiff filed his complaint for personal injuries against the Estate of Peter Altieri alleging negligence and against Joseph Altieri alleging negligent entrustment and vicarious liability for his father's negligence causing the accident. In February 2005, Joseph Altieri filed a motion for summary judgment and attached an affidavit asserting that his father was not driving the Celica as his agent, servant, or employee, and had not used the car on any business for Joseph. Plaintiff responded to Joseph's motion and filed a cross-motion seeking summary judgment as to Peter's negligence and the proximate cause of plaintiff's injuries. He also moved for leave to file an amended complaint to add Allstate as an additional defendant and for a declaration that coverage under the PUP purchased by Joseph extended to his father at the time of the accident.

During oral argument on August 11, 2005, plaintiff's counsel made a concession that the issue of agency alleged in the complaint was not an issue in the case and that the theory of liability as to Joseph Altieri was based solely on negligent entrustment. Following oral argument Judge Perri first granted Joseph Altieri's motion for summary judgment on the issues of agency and negligent entrustment. She followed the common law of this State which is based on fault and shields an owner of an automobile from liability when the owner has not been negligent and is not related to the driver so as to justify the imposition of vicarious liability. Haggerty v. Cedeno, 279 N.J. Super. 607, 611 (App. Div. 1995); Harvey v. Craw, 110 N.J. Super. 68, 73-74 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 56 N.J. 479 (1970).

Judge Perri held as follows:

The motion filed on behalf of the defendants ... set forth the claim that defendants were entitled to summary judgment dismissing the complaint against Joseph Altieri on the basis that Peter Altieri was not acting as the agent, servant or employee of Joseph. Plaintiff's counsel has indicated that really was not a theory in this case and I think both sides can see there is no evidence in this case that Peter was acting as Joseph's agent at the time of the accident. Therefore, to the extent that there was a claim against Joseph based on the theory of agency, that aspect of the claim is dismissed.

With regard to defendant's motion for summary judgment, dismissing all claims against Joseph Altieri on the theory of negligent entrustment, the plaintiff has asserted a negligent entrustment claim against Joseph Altieri ... plaintiff contends that Joseph's decision to entrust his vehicle to an eighty-eight year old father whose vehicle had previously been declared a total loss after a 2002 accident "was clearly negligent entrustment."

Under New Jersey law, "the owner of an automobile may be liable for injury from the operation of that car placed in the hands of one he knows or reasonably to know is incompetent to operate so that the owner ought reasonably to anticipate that in its operation injury will be done to others." Mead v. Wiley M.E. Church, 4 N.J. 200, 206 (1950). The proofs in this matter show that at the time of the 2002 accident, Peter was eighty-eight years of age and was described by his son as being in "robust good health." The proofs before the court indicate that Peter had been involved in an accident in which he made a left-hand turn in front of another vehicle. There is no proof in the record regarding the actual circumstances of the accident or the comparative fault, if any, of the other driver. No injuries were sustained as a result of the accident. Plaintiff has made a variety of claims regarding possible motivations for Joseph's entrustment of the vehicle to his father.

He claims that there may have been a subterfuge. He claims without any support on the record that Peter may have tried to get insurance and could not because of his age or because of his driving history, that Peter may have been uninsurable. The fact that Peter Altieri was involved in an accident approximately two years prior to this accident and the details of which are unknown in and of itself is not proof that the was likely to cause injury to another if he operated a vehicle.

The claims that Peter was unable to get insurance that he had some sort of problem with his driving record, that there was some motivation that would rise to the level of proof that Joseph was on notice of a problem that would support a claim of negligent entrustment, those facts are simply not before the court. The mere fact that Peter was eighty-eight years old in and of itself is not competent proof that Joseph could be found guilty of negligent entrustment. Indeed, Ms. Huhn, the driver of the other vehicle, I believe was seventy-two or seventy-three at the date of the happening of the accident. . . . I believe it would be inappropriate and improper to draw the conclusion that the age of the driver alone can support a claim of negligent entrustment. . . . For all these reasons the court finds that the plaintiff has failed to come forward with any competent, evidential materials that would raise an issue of genuine material fact regarding the claim of negligent entrustment. On that basis, the court is constrained to grant the defendant's motion.

Judge Perri also granted plaintiff partial summary judgment against defendants Estate of Peter Altieri and Joseph Altieri, executor, as to the issue of negligence and proximate cause, reserving for trial the issue of damages. The court further granted plaintiff's motion for leave to file and serve an amended complaint to add Allstate Insurance Company as a direct defendant for declaratory judgment as to the PUP issued to Joseph Altieri. On January 6, 2006, the court also granted the motion of First Trenton to intervene as plaintiff's personal automobile insurance carrier for UIM coverage.

Allstate moved for summary judgment declaring that the umbrella policy issued to Joseph Altieri did not extend coverage to Peter Altieri for the January 17, 2004 accident. Plaintiff filed opposition to Allstate's motion and a cross-motion pursuant to R. 4:50-1 to vacate the earlier order of summary judgment in favor of Joseph Altieri, and for declaration that the PUP extended coverage to Peter. Intervenor First Trenton filed a separate cross-motion to also vacate the September 13, 2005 summary judgment order entered on behalf of Joseph Altieri, arguing that it intervened after the court previously ruled on the matter.

Allstate's argument for summary judgment centered on the provision in the declaration page of the PUP defining the term "insured" to mean:

(a) You, and (b) Any person related to You by blood, marriage or adoption who resides in your household. (Emphasis supplied.)

Allstate relied upon the undisputed facts that at the time of the accident Peter was living in New Jersey while Joseph resided in Arizona. In fact, the proofs were that Peter never lived with Joseph in Arizona or in Connecticut. Allstate asserted therefore that because Peter was not residing in Joseph's household, it was entitled to summary judgment under the PUP. Allstate asserted that based on the clear policy language, Joseph's expectations as to coverage had been met. It also pointed to the fact that when Joseph was informed of Allstate's conclusion that Peter was not entitled to coverage under the umbrella policy, Joseph, as the named insured and the executor of his father's estate, did not take action to challenge that determination by Allstate or sue Allstate seeking coverage for Peter under the PUP. Plaintiff and First Trenton argued that Connecticut law governed the issue of coverage and that Connecticut tort law would impose liability on Joseph for Peter's negligent operation of the Celica, which in turn would trigger coverage under the PUP. Accordingly, both plaintiff and intervenor sought reconsideration of Judge Perri's September 13, 2005 order granting summary judgment to Joseph.*fn1

Judge Perri found that the language of the umbrella policy clearly stated that while Joseph was entitled to coverage under the umbrella policy, his legitimate expectations of coverage were met, and since his father was not a resident of his household he could have no reasonable expectation of coverage, and in fact did not claim coverage for Peter. She further found that the same result would be reached under the law of either Connecticut or New Jersey, and that even assuming a conflict of laws, New Jersey law would apply since this State had the most significant relationship to the transaction and the parties. She further found no basis for plaintiff's claim for relief under R. 4:50-1. She therefore denied the cross-motions of plaintiff and First Trenton and granted Allstate a declaratory judgment that it was not obliged to afford liability insurance coverage under the personal umbrella policy to the Estate of Peter Altieri for the accident of January 17, 2004. This appeal resulted.

In reviewing the language of the umbrella policy, we are mindful that insurance agreements are subject to particular scrutiny and that an ambiguity will usually resolve in favor of the insured even if a close reading of the policy reveals a contrary meaning. Zacarias v. Allstate Ins. Co., 168 N.J. 590, 595 (2001). However, in the absence of an ambiguity, we will not write a better policy for the insured than the one that was purchased. Ibid. Nonetheless, even the plain meaning of policy language may be overcome when it conflicts with the reasonable expectations of the insured. Doto v. Russo, 140 N.J. 544, 556 (1995); Am. Motorists Ins. Co. v. L-C-A Sales Co., 155 N.J. 29, 41 (1998). But while the doctrine of reasonable expectations is a fundamental rule of interpretation of insurance contracts, it may not be used to bootstrap coverage that was never intended by the insurer. Weedo v. Stone-E-Brick, Inc., 81 N.J. 233, 247 (1979); Diorio v. New Jersey Mfrs. Ins. Co., 79 N.J. 257, 270 (1979). We also pay special attention to the language in the declarations sections of the policy since that is the one page tailored to the particular insured and most likely to be read and understood by the insured. Zacarias, supra, 168 N.J. at 603-04; Lehrhoff v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 271 N.J. Super. 340, 348-50 (App. Div. 1994).

Much in point is Greer ex rel. Peterson v. Naklicki, 379 N.J. Super. 153 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 185 N.J. 390 (2005), which presents a close factual parallel to the instant case. There, Allstate issued a personal umbrella policy to Glenn Naklicki as the named insured and coverage was extended to "any person related to You by blood, marriage or adoption who is a resident of your household." Coverage extended to three automobiles without specific identification of the vehicles. The policy imposed an obligation upon the insured to notify Allstate within thirty days of a change in the address of any person so insured. When the policy was issued, Glenn's son, Michael, was a member of Glenn's household. After he graduated from college, Michael moved into his own apartment in a different town, but no notification was given to Allstate that Michael had established his own residence and should be removed from the policy. While driving his own car, Michael was involved in an automobile accident in which a minor suffered severe physical injuries. The trial court found that Michael was not a resident relative and granted Allstate's motion for summary judgment declaring no coverage for Michael under the personal umbrella policy of his father. A jury verdict was returned holding Michael liable and damages were awarded to the plaintiff in the amount of $1,600,000. Plaintiff appealed the trial court ruling that the Allstate umbrella policy afforded no coverage for Michael's negligence. We held there was no ambiguity and nothing unenforceable about the limitation of coverage to only those relatives residing with the insured. We rejected the plaintiff's contention the limitation conflicted with the insured's reasonable expectation because of the clear policy language defining the insureds to include only resident relatives. "[T]here is neither an ambiguity nor a reasonable expectation that equitably supports coverage." Id. at 163. We further held that the failure of Glenn or Michael to inform Allstate that Michael was no longer a resident of his father's household was in violation of the insured's contractual duty.

Plaintiff in this case argues that the facts of Greer distinguish that case from the instant case because there was no change of residence or status during the term of the policy. However, this case is even stronger for exclusion from coverage since from the inception of the policy to the date of the accident, Peter was never a resident relative qualified for coverage under Joseph's umbrella policy. Moreover, plaintiff's assertion that Joseph had any reasonable expectation of coverage for his father is without merit. The only comment in his deposition in this regard relates to his understanding and expectation that he was covered under the umbrella policy, not that his father was entitled to coverage as a non-resident of Joseph's household. Therefore, we conclude under New Jersey law that the Allstate umbrella policy was clear in its terms to restrict coverage to Joseph and any resident relatives of his household and therefore did not cover any negligence by Peter.

Plaintiff and First Trenton next contend that under established principles of conflicts of law, the law of Connecticut rather than New Jersey is applicable sub judice. They rely on the facts that the Celica was registered in Connecticut with an expiration date four months after the accident and that both the auto policy and the PUP were negotiated in the State of Connecticut through a Connecticut insurance agency.

Our initial inquiry is whether the laws of Connecticut and New Jersey diverge upon a material issue in this case, or whether there is simply a false conflict needing no further analysis. Fu v. Fu, 160 N.J. 108, 118 (1999); Gilbert Spruance Co. v. Pa. Mfrs. Ass'n Ins. Co., 134 N.J. 96, 102 (1993); Veazey v. Doremus, 103 N.J. 244, 248 (1986). We find no difference between the laws of New Jersey and Connecticut governing the interpretation of the umbrella policy to exclude coverage to Peter Altieri as a non-resident relative of the insured.*fn2

Connecticut law, like New Jersey law, has upheld the validity of insurance policy provisions limiting the scope of the term "insured" based on the person's residency. See e.g., Middlesex Ins. Co. v. Castellano, 623 A.2d 55 (Conn. 1993); May v. Retarides, 848 A.2d 1222, 1225 (Conn. App.), cert. denied, 859 A.2d 562 (Conn. 2004). For example, in Griffith v. Security Insurance Co. of Hartford, 356 A.2d 94 (Conn. 1975), the parents were divorced, and the son lived with his mother in a separate residence from the father. The Connecticut Supreme Court denied uninsured motorist benefits to the son under his father's automobile policy, which defined an insured as the named insured or a relative living in the same household.

Since we find no difference between New Jersey and Connecticut as to the interpretation of an insured as defined in this insurance contract, there is no conflict of laws to militate against Judge Perri's holding that Peter was outside the coverage of the Allstate umbrella policy. However, plaintiff and First Trenton maintain that there is a conflict of laws of Connecticut and New Jersey on the central issue of tort liability and that Connecticut law should govern, which we would impose liability on Joseph for Peter's negligence and thereby bring Joseph's umbrella policy into play.

Two Connecticut statutes are cited by plaintiff and First Trenton. The first, Conn. Gen. Stat. 52-183, imposes a presumption of agency and resultant vicarious liability of the owner of an automobile involved in an accident while being driven by another:

In any civil action brought against the owner of motor vehicle to recover damages for the negligent or reckless operation of the motor vehicle, the operator, if he is other than the owner of the motor vehicle, shall be presumed to be the agent and servant of the owner of the motor vehicle and operating it in the course of his employment. The defendant shall have the burden of rebutting the presumption. (Emphasis supplied.)

The other statute, Conn. Gen. Stat. 52-182, codifies the common law concept of Connecticut known as the "family car doctrine," which imposes liability upon an owner if a covered vehicle is operated by another family member. The statute provides as follows:

Proof that the operator of a motor vehicle or a motorboat, as defined in section 15-127, was the husband, wife, father, mother, son or daughter of the owner shall raise a presumption that such motor vehicle or motorboat was being operated as a family car or boat within the scope of the general authority from the owner, and shall impose upon the defendant the burden of rebutting such presumption. (Emphasis supplied.)

In resolving the contention that Connecticut tort liability governs this case, our first inquiry again is whether there is a true conflict of laws. Fu, supra, 160 N.J. at 188. If there is a true conflict, then we must consider under the governmental interest test as to which state has the most significant relationship to the case. Id. at 119. With regard to the Connecticut statute imposing vicarious liability of an owner whose vehicle was involved in an accident while operated by another, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-183, there is no difference between that statutory presumption and the law of this State. As we stated in Harvey, supra, 110 N.J. Super. at 68, we addressed the issue as follows:

To establish agency, plaintiffs relied upon the rule of law that use of an automobile upon a public highway by one who is not its owner raises a presumption of agency between the operator and the owner. This presumption is one of fact. It can be rebutted by a defendant-owner where a plaintiff seeks to hold him vicariously liable for the negligence of the driver. Tischler v. Steinholtz, 99 N.J.L. 149 (E. & A. 1923); Mahan v. Walker, 97 N.J.L. 304 (E. & A. 1922). . . . To prevent the issue of agency from reaching the jury, the owner must show by uncontradicted testimony that no employer-employee or principal-agent relationship existed, or, if one did exist, that the employee or agent had transgressed the bounds of his authority.

[Id. at 73. See also Kauffman v. Gullace, 252 N.J. Super. 467, 473 (App. Div. 1991) (extending the presumption of agency between operator and owner beyond the relationship of title owner to operator).]

Accordingly, while the presumption of agency is codified in Connecticut, the common law of New Jersey provides the same presumption so that there is no genuine conflict between the laws of both states.

Similarly, we perceive no real difference between New Jersey law and the Connecticut family car statute under the facts of this case. In Hunt v. Richter, 302 A.2d 117 (Conn. 1973), the Connecticut Supreme Court considered the issue as to whether that statute broadened the scope of the common law family car doctrine to apply where the owner and operator came within the designated relationship but resided in different households. There, the car was operated by the insured's son who lived with his mother until he was married and moved to his own household several months before the accident. The court compared the statutes to the Connecticut common law formulation of the doctrine and concluded that coverage was not afforded under either:

In the absence of the statute, our court adopted the rule that "when a motor-car is maintained by the paterfamilias for the general use and convenience of his family, he is liable for the negligence of a member of the family having general authority to drive it, while the car is being used as a family car." Stickney v. Epstein, 100 Conn. 170, 179, 123 A. 1, 3 (1923). The doctrine was restated in Haugh v. Kirsch, 105 Conn. 429, 431, 135 A. 568, 569 (1927): "[W]hen an automobile is maintained by the owner thereof for the general use and convenience of his or her family, such owner is liable for the negligence of a member of the family, having general authority to drive the car."

It is clear that the common-law rule of the family car doctrine requires the operator of the vehicle to be a member of the owner's household.

The purpose and effect of the enactment of section 52-182 was not to affect or create substantive rights; its purpose was merely to govern procedure. [Id. at 119-20.]

Therefore, since the family car doctrine law of Connecticut is inapplicable when the owner and operator live in separate households, the doctrine is inapplicable to the present case.

Further, even assuming that Connecticut applies, its agency and family car statutes only impose a presumption of agency or use of a vehicle as a family car. When Joseph Altieri filed his motion for summary judgment, he annexed an affidavit of non-agency in which he stated that at the time of the accident his father was using the Celica on his own personal business and was not driving the car as Joseph's agent, servant, or employee, or on any business for Joseph. Counsel for plaintiff argues that subsequently Joseph stated in his deposition that Joseph had the expectation of coverage under the umbrella policy after the accident. During the course of questioning about a conversation with the Allstate adjuster, the following colloquy took place between Joseph and plaintiff's counsel:

Q: Are you aware that Allstate Insurance Company initially communicated that they were not denying any coverage under the umbrella policy for the accident in question?

A: Was I aware they were reject --

Q: They initially did not deny coverage.

A: I thought they initially denied coverage because the issue of him being part of my household.

Q: Were you -- you were not aware that prior to the denial of coverage that they acknowledged coverage?

A: No.

Q: How did you become aware that they at some point in time denied coverage?

A: Someone from Allstate. An adjuster from Allstate. It was a woman and I don't remember her name.

Q: Did you inquire as to whether you were covered?

A: Yes.

Q: Did you assume that you and the vehicle were covered by the umbrella policy?

A: Yes.

Q: What was the reason given by the adjuster as to the position of Allstate that they were denying coverage?

A: The position that they told me they took was that the policy stipulates that in order to have coverage extended to a permissive driver that the person would have to be part of my household.

And since he was not part of my household, they were denying that . . . personal umbrella policy.

Q: Have you taken any action to challenge that denial of coverage?

A: No, sir.

We do not interpret this colloquy to indicate any expectation that Joseph was exposed to potential liability for the negligence of his father or that the umbrella policy addressed such possible exposure to damages.

Since the presumptions are factual in nature, uncontradicted proof to the contrary justifies a judicial determination dismissing the agency contention. Kauffman, supra, 252 N.J. Super. at 475-76; Harvey, supra, 110 N.J. Super. at 73-74; Tischler, supra, 99 N.J.L. at 152. See also Ferdinand v. Agricultural Ins. Co., 22 N.J. 482, 494 (1956). The only evidence presented to Judge Perri was the affidavit of non-agency executed by Joseph Altieri and his deposition testimony to the same effect. We find no facts and can draw no reasonable inferences to the contrary.

Even assuming a conflict between Connecticut law and the law of New Jersey on the issue of vicarious liability of an automobile owner for negligent operation by a non-resident relative, we find that New Jersey law should govern. New Jersey courts have departed from the traditional rule that the law of the place where the contract was entered is determinative of the rights and duties of the parties and has adopted the more flexible approach of focusing on the state that has "the most significant connections with the parties and the transaction." Gilbert Spruance, supra, 134 N.J. at 102; State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co. v. Estate of Simmon, 84 N.J. 28, 36-37 (1980); Pfau v. Trent Aluminum Co., 55 N.J. 511, 527 (1970); Kievit v. Loyal Protective Life Ins. Co., 34 N.J. 475, 493 (1961); Bell v. Merchants & Businessmen's Mut. Ins. Co., 241 N.J. Super. 557, 561-62 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 122 N.J. 395 (1990); Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws, § 6 (1971).

An analysis of the significant contacts of each state with the instant case and the public policy of each under the governmental interest test demonstrate that New Jersey and not Connecticut has the most significant relationship to the issue. The automobile accident occurred in New Jersey. Plaintiff and his wife were long-time New Jersey residents and the vehicle in which they were riding was registered and insured in New Jersey. Plaintiff received all his medical treatment in New Jersey including his surgeries. Peter Altieri was also a resident of New Jersey for an extended period, and the record indicates he had no connection with the State of Connecticut. There is no contention that Peter drove the vehicle anywhere but in New Jersey, and the Celica was garaged in New Jersey for over two years prior to the accident. Moreover, when the accident occurred, no one involved in this case resided in Connecticut, for at that time, Joseph was a resident of the State of Arizona. The renewal of both the automobile policy on the Celica and the PUP were negotiated and executed by Joseph after he determined he would not return to live in Connecticut and became an Arizona resident. Although the vehicle remained registered in Connecticut, the registration was to expire in May 2004, and Joseph had no plans to renew it since he signed over the title to his father. Similarly, Peter had no intention of renewing the auto policy on the Celica, which expired four days after the accident, since his father had purchased the car and was to arrange for insurance coverage. Finally, Joseph had signed over the title to the car and delivered it to his father. Peter then signed the certificate of title as owner and placed it in the glove compartment with the obvious intention of registering the car in New Jersey and obtaining his own insurance on the vehicle. Both the quantitative and qualitative nature of significant contacts with this transaction call for the applicability of New Jersey law. The only connection Connecticut has with this case is the fact that the Celica was registered in Connecticut when the accident occurred in New Jersey. But we cannot reasonably assume that Connecticut has any public policy interest in an accident involving only New Jersey residents and a car owned by an Arizona resident. We find no significant policy of Connecticut is impacted by applying New Jersey law to this case. "If a state's contacts are not related to the policies underlying its law, then that state does not possess an interest in having its law applied." Veazey, supra, 103 N.J. at 248.

Accordingly, even assuming a conflict of laws as to vicarious liability, we find that the trial court properly concluded that New Jersey law governed.


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