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Sytsma v. Serignese

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

July 16, 2013

MICHAEL SYTSMA, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
JOHN SERIGNESE, Defendant-Respondent.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued February 12, 2013

On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Docket No. L-2661-10.

Dennis G. Polizzi argued the cause for appellant (Weiner & Mazzei, attorneys; Mr. Polizzi, of counsel and on the brief).

Seth D. Griep argued the cause for respondent (Harwood Lloyd, attorneys; Russell A. Pepe, of counsel and on the brief; Mr. Griep, on the brief).

Before Judges Messano and Kennedy.

PER CURIAM

Plaintiff appeals from an order of the Law Division declaring that his personal injury claim arising from an automobile accident on September 13, 2009, is subject to the limitation on lawsuit option (the so-called "verbal threshold") under N.J.S.A. 39:6A-8(a), and -8.1(a).[1] Plaintiff argues on appeal that at the time of the accident, he was living in New York, did not own a motor vehicle, and was not living with his parents who had elected a verbal threshold. We affirm.

The facts which follow are uncontested, and neither party argues on appeal that that the motion judge erred by failing to require an evidential hearing to determine the "totality of the circumstances" pertaining to the issue on appeal. Cf. Sjoberg v. Rutgers Cas. Ins. Co., 260 N.J.Super. 159, 164-65 (App. Div. 1992).

Plaintiff was twenty-two years of age and had graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2009. He lived with his parents in Wyckoff, and found a job in New York City following graduation. On August 26, 2009, plaintiff entered into a short-term lease for an apartment in Manhattan and moved there with a friend on the same date. The lease term expired on September 30, 2009, and plaintiff knew he had to vacate the apartment on that date. Plaintiff "did not know where [he] was going to move to" after the lease expired. Plaintiff nonetheless entered into the lease because he "work[ed] in Manhattan."

Plaintiff did not own a motor vehicle of any type, but conceded his parents in Wyckoff owned automobiles which were covered by an insurance policy subject to a verbal threshold.

On September 13, 2009, while walking through the parking lot at the "Meadowlands Sports Complex" to attend a professional football game, plaintiff was struck in the left leg by an automobile driven by defendant. Responding to questions from law enforcement officers at the scene, plaintiff gave his parents' address in Wyckoff and was transported by ambulance to Meadowlands Hospital, where he again gave his parents' address, and was treated and released. He later consulted with an orthopedist, and was diagnosed with a fracture. He was given a leg cast and attended physical therapy for a month.

Plaintiff's medical expenses were paid through the personal injury protection (PIP) benefits provided by his parents' automobile insurance policy.[2] Neither party to this appeal has provided a copy of the PIP application, but both parties concede that plaintiff's expenses were paid through the parents' automobile insurance policy, and that the policy was subject to the verbal threshold.

Plaintiff later filed a complaint against defendant in the Law Division, seeking compensation for "permanent injuries" and "pain and suffering" he claimed to have endured as a consequence of the accident. Following the conclusion of discovery, defendant moved for an order declaring plaintiff to be subject to the verbal threshold. The motion was granted and plaintiff later sought reconsideration, supported by a certification in which he stated that he used his parents' Wyckoff address as a "stable mailing address." In addition, he stated that because he would have had to move by September 30, and did not know where he would be living after that, "keeping my parents' address in Wyckoff seemed like a good idea." He added that he gave the Wyckoff address to both the responding law ...


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