On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Morris County, Docket No. L-1225-05.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Fisher, Baxter and King.
This is a first-party claim by an insured of New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Company (NJM) under the uninsured motorists (UM) feature of his automobile policy for an alleged "excess verdict above the policy limit of $100,000 for injury to a single person." There is also a claim that the "offer of judgment" rule, Rule 4:58-2, applies and should trigger a counsel fee award. We resolve both issues against the plaintiffs and in favor of NJM. We reverse in part and affirm in part.
In this first-party action, plaintiff and his wife who sued derivately, sought damages under the UM coverage with a policy limit of $100,000. Before trial plaintiff submitted an offer to take judgment under Rule 4:58-2 of $95,000 in full settlement. NJM declined the offer and the case went to trial before a jury.
The jury found an alleged "phantom" vehicle 100% responsible for the occurrence of the accident and awarded damages of $255,175. After the jury verdict plaintiff moved to enter judgment for the amount of the entire verdict, notwithstanding the policy limit of $100,000. Plaintiffs also sought prejudgment interest on the verdict in the amount of $27,278.23.
A final order for judgment in favor of plaintiffs and against NJM was eventually entered on March 31, 2008 for these amounts:
ORDERED as follows that Judgment be and is hereby entered against NJM in the total amount of $209,238.55. This total amount is comprised of the following components:
a) $100,000 in compensatory damages;
b) $30,000.00 in attorneys' fees to Robert G. Goodman, Esq. of the firm of Palmisano & Goodman;
c) $57,075.00 in attorneys' fees to Gregory T. Severinsen, Esq.;
d) $6,511.51 in costs of suit and ...