January 2004, No. 2

January 2004, Vol. II, No. 2

Supreme Court Weighs in on Split Limit Policies? Last month, we reported that the decisions in Galante v. May, 364 N.J. Super. 284, 286 (App. Div. 2003), and Vassiliu v. Daimler Chrysler Corp., 356 N.J. Super. 447 (App. Div. 2002), inconsistently applied a split limit policy to wrongful death and survival claims. Well, the Supreme Court has determined that "per person" phrase in an insurance policy (both UIM and liability) means the injured individual, not the estate or heirs. The Supreme acknowledged that survival and wrongful death claims are distinct causes of action, but determined that the survival and wrongful death claims were derivative of the "one" injury. Thus, the plaintiffs' claims were subject to the single per person limit. Like the Appellate Division in Galante, the Supreme Court relied on the language of the insurance policy in rendering its opinion. That reliance is somewhat misplaced as insureds do not have the option of paying a higher premium if they want their estate and family to have the ability to pursue two claims under the UIM policy. Without that option, the Supreme Court has limited two distinct parties from pursuing their claims. This issue may be one for the legislature to consider.

Contributions. If you have an interesting case, rule interpretation, ethics issue, or civil-related story, please contact me at 201-918-3560, (f) (201) 845-5973, or e-mail mjepstein@epsteinbeirne.com.

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