On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County, Docket No. L-7910-04.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Lisa, Baxter and Alvarez.
These back-to-back appeals, which we now consolidate for disposition in a single opinion, involve a dispute regarding insurance coverage. The underlying claim was brought by Benjamin Ingling,*fn1 because of injuries he suffered when he slipped and fell on an icy parking lot at the premises of Ryder Truck Rental Inc. (Ryder). Ingling suffered severe brain injuries. He ultimately settled the claim with Ryder and its snow removal contractor for $7 million, of which Ryder paid $6.5 million and the snow removal contractor paid $500,000.
Ingling's employer, McLean Packaging Corporation (McLean) had a $1 million motor vehicle policy with Liberty Mutual Insurance Company (Liberty Mutual). Ryder was also an insured under the policy. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the trial court initially determined that Ingling's injuries did not arise from the use of the insured vehicle covered by the Liberty Mutual policy, and thus granted Liberty Mutual's motion and dismissed Ryder's third-party complaint against Liberty Mutual which sought coverage. However, the court subsequently granted Ryder's motion for reconsideration and reversed its earlier decision. The court held that Ingling's injuries arose out of the use of the insured vehicle and Ryder was entitled to coverage from Liberty Mutual. The court subsequently denied two reconsideration motions made by Liberty Mutual.
Because of his injuries, Ingling was adjudged incapacitated, and the settlement on his behalf required court approval. After conducting a hearing, the court approved the settlement on March 27, 2007. On that date, Ryder filed a motion to amend its third-party complaint in order to join AIG National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, PA (National Union) as a third-party defendant. National Union had issued a $5 million commercial umbrella policy to McLean, which was in effect at the time of Ingling's injury. The critical allegation in the proposed amended third-party complaint stated: "As Ryder is an insured under the National Union policy and the incident arose from the ownership, maintenance, operation, and use of a vehicle, National Union is obligated to indemnify Ryder with respect to the settlement and all costs incurred."
The trial court denied Ryder's motion to amend its third-party complaint to include National Union. The court found that the delay in attempting to join this additional party was inexcusable and that National Union would suffer substantial prejudice by virtue of the late joinder, in light of the critical coverage determination that had already been made and the settlement that had been approved.
An order for final judgment was entered on November 5, 2008. Ryder and Liberty Mutual had entered into stipulations, agreeing that if the trial court's decision on coverage is affirmed on appeal, then (1) the settlement amount was reasonable and Liberty Mutual would indemnify Ryder up to its policy limit of $1 million, and (2) counsel fees incurred by Ryder in the amount of $300,000 were reasonable, and would be paid by Liberty Mutual. Thus, on November 5, 2008, the court entered final judgment against Liberty Mutual in favor of Ryder in the amount of $1,300,000.
In A-1911-08T3, Liberty Mutual appeals from the final judgment and from the earlier orders we have described in which it was determined that Liberty Mutual was obligated to provide coverage for Ingling's claim. We agree with Liberty Mutual's argument that Ingling's injuries did not arise out the use of the insured vehicle, and we therefore reverse on A-1911-08T3.
In A-2012-08T3, Ryder appeals from the denial of its motion to add National Union as an additional third-party defendant. Although the issue appears to be moot in light of our disposition of Liberty Mutual's appeal, for the sake of completeness we will address the issue substantively. We find no mistaken exercise of discretion in the denial of Ryder's motion, and we accordingly affirm on A-2012-08T3.
McLean leased tractors from Ryder for use by McLean's drivers in making deliveries. Pursuant to the truck lease agreement, McLean was required to obtain insurance providing primary coverage to Ryder and McLean for the ownership, maintenance, use or operation of the leased vehicles, with a combined single limit of $1 million per occurrence. McLean procured such coverage from Liberty Mutual, and the policy was in effect at the time of Ingling's injury. The liability provision in the policy obligated Liberty Mutual to pay all sums an insured was legally obligated to pay for bodily injury "caused by an 'accident' and resulting from the ownership, maintenance or use of a covered 'auto.'" The primary issue in these appeals is whether Ingling's accident "resulted from" or arose out of "the ownership, maintenance or use of" the insured vehicle.
Each morning, McLean's drivers would clock in at McLean's facility, drive to the Ryder parking lot, and pick up their tractors, after which they would return to the McLean lot, hook up their trailer, and begin their delivery routes. On February 5, 2004, Ingling followed this procedure. He arrived at the Ryder lot before daybreak. The lot was not lit, and the surface was covered with snow and ice from prior storms. Ingling parked his car, walked to and entered the tractor to which he was assigned, started the engine and turned on the headlights. Because his truck appeared to be blocked in by other trucks in the lot, Ingling got out of his truck and walked around the back of it to ascertain how he would exit. It appears that when Ingling fell, he might have been attempting to enter and start a bread truck that was blocking his tractor so he could move it out of the way. While walking ...