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Rafael Rivas Diaz v. Cure Personal Auto Insurance

September 14, 2012

RAFAEL RIVAS DIAZ, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
CURE PERSONAL AUTO INSURANCE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County, Docket No. L-2628-11.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued August 27, 2012

Before Judges Nugent and Ostrer.

In this uninsured motorist (UM) action, defendant Cure Personal Auto Insurance (Cure) appeals from a Law Division order that granted summary judgment to plaintiff Rafael Rivas Diaz and entered judgment against CURE in the amount of $15,000, the limits of plaintiff's UM insurance. Cure asserts that its policy provision binding it to an arbitration award of $15,000 or less did not bar it from appealing a UM arbitration award, even though the arbitrators expected the parties to "mold" the award to the policy limits. We affirm.

The facts are undisputed. In July 2008, plaintiff was driving his car on Harrison Avenue in Camden when he was injured in a two-car collision caused in part by the negligence of an uninsured driver. Plaintiff was insured by Cure under a "New Jersey Standard Personal Automobile Policy" that included UM coverage in the amount of $15,000 "for any one person injured in any one accident." The UM policy provisions provided, among other terms, the following:

ARBITRATION

A. If we and an "insured" do not agree:

1. Whether that "insured" is legally entitled to recover damages; or

2. As to the amount of damages which are recoverable by that "insured"; from the owner or operator of an "uninsured motor vehicle", then the matter may be arbitrated. However, disputes concerning coverage under this Part may not be arbitrated.

Both parties must agree to arbitration. If so agreed, each party will select an arbitrator. The two arbitrators will select a third. If they cannot agree within 30 days, either may request that selection be made by a judge of a court having jurisdiction.

C. Unless both parties agree otherwise, arbitration will take place in the county in which the "insured" lives. Local rules of law as to procedure and evidence will apply. A decision agreed to by two of the arbitrators will be binding as to:

1. Whether the "insured" is legally entitled to recover damages; and

2. The amount of damages. This applies only if the amount does not exceed the minimum limit for bodily injury liability specified by the financial responsibility law of the state in which "your covered auto" is principally garaged.*fn1 If the amount exceeds that limit, either party may demand the right to a trial. This demand must be made within 60 days of the arbitrators' ...


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