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Government Employees Insurance Company On Its Own Behalf and As v. Community Options

June 29, 2011

GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES INSURANCE COMPANY ON ITS OWN BEHALF AND AS SUBROGEE OF TONI A. KAN-BOATWRIGHT, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
COMMUNITY OPTIONS, INC., AND WILLIAM E. RINGENWALD, DEFENDANTS, AND PHILADELPHIA INDEMNITY INSURANCE COMPANY*FN1 DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Mercer County, Docket No. L-473-09.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Yannotti, J.A.D.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

APPROVED FOR PUBLICATION

Submitted May 24, 2010

Before Judges Parrillo, Yannotti and Skillman.

The opinion of the court was delivered by YANNOTTI, J.A.D.

Defendant Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company (Philadelphia Indemnity) appeals from an order entered by the Law Division on July 23, 2010, which denied Philadelphia Indemnity's motion for summary judgment, and granted summary judgment in favor of plaintiff Government Employees Insurance Company (GEICO). We affirm.

On March 16, 2007, a van owned by defendant Community Options, Inc. (Community Options) and operated by defendant William E. Ringenwald (Ringenwald) collided with the rear end of an automobile, which was being driven by Toni A. Kan-Boatwright (Kan-Boatwright). Kan-Boatwright allegedly suffered serious injuries in the accident.

The Community Options vehicle was insured under a commercial automobile auto insurance policy issued by Philadelphia Indemnity. The Kan-Boatwright vehicle was insured under a policy issued by GEICO, which provided personal injury protection (PIP) benefits. GEICO paid $34,974.59 for the medical care of Kan-Boatwright.

GEICO filed an action in the trial court against Philadelphia Indemnity, Community Options and Ringenwald, in which it alleged that the accident had been caused by Ringenwald's recklessness, negligence and failure to make proper observations. GEICO asserted that Philadelphia Indemnity was obligated to reimburse GEICO for the PIP benefits that it paid on Kan-Boatwright's behalf. Philadelphia Indemnity, Community Options and Ringenwald filed an answer denying liability.

Thereafter, defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, and GEICO filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. The trial court considered the motions on July 23, 2010. GEICO and Philadelphia Indemnity consented to the dismissal of the claims against Community Options and Ringenwald.

The court determined that GEICO had the right to seek reimbursement of its PIP benefits from Philadelphia Indemnity pursuant to N.J.S.A. 39:6A-9.1 because, although Community Options was required to maintain insurance with PIP benefits for the private passenger automobiles in its fleet, it was not required to maintain such coverage for the van involved in the subject accident. The court entered an order dated July 23, 2010, denying Philadelphia Indemnity's motion for summary judgment, granting summary judgment in GEICO's favor, and dismissing the claims against Community Options and Ringenwald. This appeal followed.

Philadelphia Indemnity argues that the court erred by finding that GEICO may seek reimbursement of its PIP payments from it pursuant to N.J.S.A. 39:6A-9.1. We disagree and affirm the trial court's order.

N.J.S.A. 39:6A-9.1 provides in pertinent part that an insurer, health maintenance organization (HMO) or governmental agency that pays PIP benefits pursuant to N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4.3, N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4 or N.J.S.A. 39:6A-10, or medical expense benefits pursuant to N.J.S.A. 39:6A-3.1, as a result of an accident that occurred in New Jersey, has the right to recover the amount of those payments from any tortfeasor who was not, at the time of the accident, required to maintain personal injury protection or medical expense benefits coverage, other than for pedestrians, under the laws of this State, including personal injury protection coverage ...


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