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Lauren Kaufman, Bettina v. Allstate New Jersey Insurance Company

September 7, 2012

LAUREN KAUFMAN, BETTINA FREELAND, PHILLIP T. BURRUS, VANGA STOILOV, AND ANTHONY ROSETTI, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
ALLSTATE NEW JERSEY INSURANCE COMPANY, LIBERTY MUTUAL FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY,*FN1 AND GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES INSURANCE COMPANY,*FN2 DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Monmouth County, Docket No. L-5667-07.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued May 2, 2012

Before Judges Axelrad and Sapp-Peterson.

In Kieffer v. High Point Insurance Co., 422 N.J. Super. 38 (App. Div. 2011), we held that plaintiffs could not maintain first-party claims against their insurers for alleged diminution in value to their motor vehicles involved in collisions. In the present matter, plaintiffs, Lauren Kaufman, Bettina Freeland, Phillip T. Burrus, Vanga Stoilov, and Anthony Rosetti, appeal from the trial court order dismissing their class action complaint in which they sought prospective injunctive relief that would prevent defendants, Allstate Insurance Company (Allstate), Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company (Liberty Mutual), and Government Employees Insurance Company (GEICO), from denying coverage for alleged diminution in value of their vehicles under the uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) provisions of their respective policies in the future, should their vehicles be involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist that causes diminished value to their automobile. The motion judge found the claims were "barred by res judicata in [Lauglin] v. Allstate Insurance Company," the claims for relief "are infuturo," and to seek relief presently "would not be proper, because they are claims that are not ripe for . . . decision." We affirm.

On appeal, plaintiffs raise the following points for our consideration:

POINT I

DEFENDANTS' INSURANCE POLICIES PROVIDE UM/UIM COVERAGE FOR DIMI[]NUTION OF VALUE DAMAGES.

POINT II

PLAINTIFFS HAVE STANDING TO SEEK INJUNCTIVE/DECLARATORY RELIEF UNDER THEIR UM/UIM COVERAGE FOR DIMI[]UTION OF VALUE DAMAGES.

A. PLAINTIFFS HAVE STANDING TO BRING DECLARATORY AND INJUNCTIVE RELIEF CLAIMS.

B. RES JUDICATA IS INAPPLICABLE TO PLAINTIFFS' CLAIMS.

POINT III

PLAINTIFFS ABANDON THEIR CLAIMS FOR DIMINUTION OF VALUE DAMAGES IN THE FIRST-PARTY CONTEXT IN LIGHT OF THIS ...


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