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Green v. State Farm Insurance Co.

September 19, 2008

HEATHER GREEN, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
STATE FARM INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County, Docket No. L-4257-07.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted September 8, 2008

Before Judges Carchman and Sabatino.

Plaintiff, Heather Green, appeals the Law Division's order dated December 7, 2007, dismissing with prejudice her uninsured motorist ("UM") complaint against defendant, State Farm Insurance Company ("State Farm"). We affirm.

At about 8:15 p.m. on August 18, 2001, plaintiff was a front-seat passenger in a Chevrolet sedan driven by Kent Link.

The Chevrolet was traveling eastbound on Route 38 in Moorestown. Plaintiff bent down to collect things that had spilled out of her pocketbook onto the car floor. At that moment, Link suddenly applied the brakes to avoid colliding with another vehicle. The other vehicle, according to Link, was attempting to cross two or three lanes of traffic in order to access a right-lane jughandle. Although the two vehicles did not collide, plaintiff was jostled around. She struck her head on the dashboard, and her left elbow hit the console.

Because her head was down when Link applied the brakes, plaintiff did not see the vehicle that had cut them off and caused the near-collision. Link, however, identified the other vehicle as a teal-colored Ford with a Pennsylvania license plate. Link observed that the license plate number was DSL3226, which he immediately notated and called into the police.

As a result of this incident, plaintiff sustained and received treatment for various personal injuries. Consequently, in April 2002, she filed a complaint in the Law Division under Docket No. L-2778-02, seeking compensation for those injuries. Her complaint named several defendants. The main defendant was Melissa A. Mays, who plaintiff contended was the owner and driver of the Ford that negligently caused the near-collision. Paragraph four of Count One of the negligence complaint recited:

As a direct and proximate result of such negligence and careless actions, there occurred a near[-]collision between the 2000 Ford motor vehicle owned by the defendant, Melissa A. Mays, and bearing the PA license tag of DSL3226, and a 1988 Chevrolet operated by defendant, Kent Link.

Plaintiff also named Link as a defendant, contending that he failed to maintain a proper lookout, failed to brake properly, failed to drive at a speed appropriate to the traffic conditions, and was otherwise careless.

The complaint also named two fictitious defendants. One fictitious defendant, "John Doe," was designated as the "driver of the Pennsylvania registered Ford motor vehicle." The other fictitious defendant, "Jane Smith," was described as "the employer or principal of defendant, John Doe driver or Melissa A. Mays," and was included on a theory of respondent superior.

At the time of the near-collision, plaintiff was residing with her parents. She did not own a vehicle but instead was listed as a named insured under a policy obtained by her parents from State Farm. That policy included UM coverage. The Link vehicle, in which she was a passenger, was uninsured.*fn1

Prior to trial, State Farm moved to intervene in the automobile negligence action to protect its interests as plaintiff's UM carrier.*fn2 See Zirger v. General Acc. Ins. Co., 144 N.J. 327, 343 (1996). The Law ...


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