March 17, 2009
BINTA DARBOE, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
RED & TAN BUS LINES AND COACH BUS CO., DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS, AND SEDGWICK CLAIMS MANAGEMENT SERVICES, DEFENDANT.
NATIONAL ARBITRATION FORUM, APPELLANT.
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County, Docket No. L-3479-07.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued February 24, 2009
Before Judges Parker and Yannotti.
On leave granted, appellant National Arbitration Forum (NAF) appeals from an order entered on April 2, 2008 denying its motion to intervene and reconsideration of an order entered on October 9, 2007. The October 9, 2007 order denied defendants' motion to stay arbitration proceedings pending before NAF and directed that arbitrations in four matters, all involving plaintiff and arising out of the same accident, be consolidated and scheduled for one hearing after May 1, 2008.
NAF is a dispute resolution organization designated by the Commissioner of Banking and Insurance to arbitrate personal injury protection (PIP) claims in New Jersey pursuant to N.J.S.A. 39:6A-5.1(b). The underlying facts in this case are undisputed. In January 2006, plaintiff Binta Darboe was injured in a bus accident in Jersey City. She received treatment from four medical providers: Chiropractic Care, Endosurgery Center, Cliffside Park Imaging and Endo Surgical Center of North Jersey. When the providers' bills were not paid, they filed demands for arbitration with NAF. A motion to consolidate the arbitrations was denied by NAF's Dispute Resolution Professional. An order entered on February 22, 2007 memorialized that decision.
In July 2007, plaintiff filed a complaint against defendants Red & Tan Bus Lines, Coach Bus Co. and Sedgwick Claims Management Services, alleging injuries resulting from the accident and seeking payment of her PIP claims. The following month, defendants moved to stay the arbitration proceedings pending before NAF. The motion was heard on September 20, 2007, at which time the court noted that plaintiff had advised that she was withdrawing the PIP count in the complaint because two of the providers had withdrawn their claims and the remaining two were proceeding with arbitration.
On October 9, 2007, the trial court denied defendants' motion to stay the arbitrations and consolidated them. NAF subsequently moved to intervene in the action so that it could seek reconsideration of the consolidation order.
In its December 7, 2007 decision on the record, the trial court denied NAF's motion to intervene "because there is no PIP action pending in the Superior Court. The only action pending now is the liability against Red & Tan; therefore, there's no basis to permit intervention by NAF." With respect to NAF's opposition to the consolidation of the arbitrations, the court noted that all of the parties had consented to the consolidation and that the court had jurisdiction over the NAF proceedings by virtue of plaintiff's original inclusion of a PIP count in her Superior Court complaint.
On March 20, 2008, the trial court conducted a hearing on remand after we determined that oral argument was required on NAF's motion for reconsideration. The trial court noted that there was no longer any PIP count pending in the Superior Court, "so there is no basis for NAF to intervene in this action." An order memorializing that decision was entered on April 2, 2008.
In this appeal, NAF argues that (1) it never waived its right to move to intervene and object to the consolidation order; (2) it satisfied the criteria for intervention; and (3) the trial court lacked jurisdiction to order the consolidation.
We have carefully considered the record in light of the parties' arguments and the applicable law. We are satisfied that the matters relevant to this appeal are now moot because there is no pending action in which NAF may intervene.*fn1 The appeal must be dismissed. R. 2:8-2.