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Serrano v. State Farm Insurance Co.

February 5, 2009

LOUIS SERRANO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
STATE FARM INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County, Docket No. L-5007-06.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted January 14, 2009

Before Judges C.L. Miniman and Baxter.

In this declaratory judgment action, plaintiff, Louis Serrano, appeals from an August 22, 2007 order granting summary judgment to defendant State Farm Insurance Company (State Farm). We reverse.

I.

On January 5, 2003, plaintiff sustained injuries while a passenger in a 1996 Mitsubishi owned and operated by Daniel Aponte. Aponte's vehicle was insured by Progressive Insurance Company, which settled plaintiff's claim for its policy limit of $25,000. Because Aponte, who lived with his parents, Israel and Jane Aponte, was a named insured on the automobile policy issued to his parents by State Farm, plaintiff also made a claim against State Farm for his injuries.*fn1 State Farm declined coverage, causing plaintiff to file a declaratory judgment action against State Farm in October 2006.

Plaintiff served a request for production of documents, pursuant to Rule 4:18-1, demanding that State Farm provide him with a "true, legible copy" of the declarations page of any policy of insurance issued to Aponte's parents. By letter dated March 6, 2007, defendant satisfied plaintiff's document request. The cover letter from the law firm representing State Farm stated, in relevant part, "Enclosed please find a copy of the insurance policy in effect for Israel Aponte on the day of the accident. . . . The policy is form #9630S1." Furthermore, an internal document generated by State Farm after it received plaintiff's claim specified the same policy form number, 9630S1.

At the time State Farm filed its summary judgment motion, it supported that motion with a certified statement of material facts, as required by Rule 4:46-2. The certification was submitted and signed by counsel for State Farm. He certified that the "policy form is 963051.*fn2 See Exhibit 'A.' Policy form 963051 is annexed hereto. See Exhibit 'B.'" The cover page of the policy, which was Exhibit "A," contained the words "Your State Farm Standard Car Policy," and specified "New Jersey Policy Form 9630S1" in the lower left hand corner. The forty-one pages of the policy that followed as Exhibit "B" inexplicably bore not the number 9630S1, but instead the number 6300S at the bottom of each of those forty-one pages. State Farm provided no explanation about that obvious discrepancy.

In opposition to State Farm's motion for summary judgment, plaintiff asserted that "the policy attached as Exhibit 'B,' on its face, is policy form 6300, not form 9630S1." He also argued there was "[n]o certification from a State Farm representative . . . certifying . . . that this is the form of the policy in dispute, or explaining the variances between the policy produced and the form referenced on the policy face sheet."

In his oral decision, the motion judge rejected plaintiff's contentions regarding the discrepancy in the policy form numbers. The judge stated:

Plaintiff's attorney's March 20, 2007 letter to defendant State Farm's attorney demanded "a true, legible copy of the declarations page of any and all policies [of] insurance to Israel and Jane Aponte . . . .

This court finds that the documents which [were] forwarded to plaintiff's attorney by defendant's attorney by letter dated March 6, 2007 and attached, which documents were attached to the instant motion as Exhibit A and B satisfy the document demand. Plaintiff did not ask for "certified" documents. More importantly, plaintiff has not proffered any basis for ...


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