eNotes: Liability – August 2022 – New Jersey
August 02, 2022
SIGNIFICANT CASE SUMMARIES
NJ CASE SUMMARY
Liriano v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co.
New Jersey Superior Court, Law Division
No. L-5379-20, ___ N.J. Super ___
Decided: July 11, 2022
A Trial Court Motion Judge dismissed Plaintiff’s underinsured motorist (“UIM”) claim pursuant to the entire controversy doctrine, as Plaintiff did not bring this claim in his first suit against his insurer.
After being involved in a rear-end motor vehicle accident, Plaintiff Yony Liriano (“Plaintiff”) – a passenger in the vehicle struck from behind – believed that the alleged tortfeasor, Carlos Munoz-Rendon, was uninsured. As a result, Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant Liberty Mutual Insurance Company (“Liberty Mutual”) for uninsured motorist (“UM”) coverage. After the carrier-assigned attorney for Munoz-Rendon filed an Answer, asserting that Munoz-Rendon was insured, Co-Defendant Liberty Mutual requested a stipulation of dismissal. Plaintiff refused to dismiss his case against Liberty Mutual for UM benefits, nor did he amend his Complaint against Liberty Mutual to assert an underinsured motorist (“UIM”) coverage claim. Instead, Plaintiff sent his insurer, Liberty Mutual, a Longworth notice, advising that he intended to accept a settlement of $26,000 from Defendant Munoz-Rendon’s insurer, Progressive Ins. Co., with $29,000 of coverage remaining on the Progressive policy.
Before responding to the Longworth notice, Defendant Liberty Mutual moved for summary judgment. The Trial Court in this first case brought by Plaintiff granted the Motion. Thereafter, Liberty Mutual sent a response to the Longworth notice advising that it would waive its right of subrogation against Munoz-Rendon. Plaintiff’s initial action against Munoz-Rendon and Liberty Mutual was ultimately closed. Plaintiff then filed a second lawsuit, asserting a claim for UIM coverage against Liberty Mutual for injuries allegedly suffered in the same accident.
In support of a Motion for summary judgment in the second action, Liberty Mutual argued that the suit was barred under the entire controversy doctrine because Plaintiff had already filed suit against Liberty Mutual for the accident. Plaintiff argued that his Longworth notice served to preserve his UIM claim.
The Motion Judge granted Liberty Mutual’s Motion. The judge pointed out that Plaintiff had previously asserted a UM claim against Liberty Mutual. Further, despite later learning that the tortfeasor (Munoz-Rendon) was insured (by Progressive), Plaintiff failed to amend his Original Complaint against Liberty Mutual to assert a UIM claim. The Judge further found that Plaintiff’s Longworth notice did not preserve his UIM claim, ruling that the Longworth decision had no impact on the application of the entire controversy doctrine, and that the notice showed that Plaintiff had actual knowledge of his UIM claim.
Questions about this case can be directed to Mark Sander at (856) 334-0415 ext. 8915 or email@example.com.