New Jersey Supreme Court Analyzes Right to Jury Trial in Statutory Insurance Fraud Cases

​On Monday, January 5, the New Jersey Supreme Court heard oral argument in a matter raising the question of whether a defendant in a civil action brought under the state’s Insurance Fraud Prevention Act (“IFPA”) has the right to a jury trial. Allstate New Jersey ins. Co. v. Lajara concerns allegations that the defendants owned and operated several chiropractic facilities that engaged in an ongoing pattern of fraud, including staging automobile accidents and paying kickbacks for referrals. The plaintiffs seek restitution of $8.2 million in personal injury protection benefits paid as a result of the alleged fraud, as well as
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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Authorizes Assignment of Statutory Bad Faith Claims to Third Parties

In a landmark decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has held that claims under the Pennsylvania insurance bad faith statute may be assigned to third parties. This decision will enable plaintiffs who have obtained an excess verdict against a policyholder to not only pursue a common-law bad faith claim against the liability insurer for the excess verdict, but also pursue a statutory bad faith claim for punitive damages, attorney’s fees, interest, and costs. The Supreme Court’s decision in Allstate Prop. and Cas. Co. v. Wolfe answered a question certified by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in
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New Jersey Appellate Court Examines Impact of Claimant’s Settlement With Tortfeasors Upon Insurer’s Subrogation Rights

​In Nucci v. American Ins. Co., the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, examined whether a policyholder’s settlement with alleged tortfeasors precludes an insurer from pursuing subrogation claims against the tortfeasors. While the Court did not issue any precedential decision at this time, the opinion indicates that it may ultimately determine whether tortfeasors who settle a claim with the primary insured while on notice of an insurer’s intent to seek subrogation remain exposed to subrogation claims by the insurer, even if the insurer is challenging coverage and has not paid the claim at the time of settlement. ​Nucci concerned a
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New Jersey Appellate Court Declines to Hold Minor Liable for Sports Injury

In a case of first impression, the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, has declined to hold an eleven-year-old lacrosse player liable for a collision that resulted in a broken arm. In C.J.R. v. G.A., the Court established an approach to assessing liability against minors for sports-related injuries that significantly raises the bar for such claims. The case concerned an incident near the end of a youth lacrosse game, in which a twelve- year-old player had possession of the ball and was attempting to run out the clock. According to the player’s coach, an eleven-year-old member of the opposing team
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Insurers Should Prepare for Another Wild Winter

The 2014-15 winter season has already made its presence felt in much of the United States. The Eastern United States has recently been faced with temperatures 10 to 20 degrees below normal, while significant lake-effect snow has fallen in areas near the Great Lakes. Most notably, a week-long snow event dumped up to seven feet of snow in areas near Buffalo, New York. This is merely the beginning of what appears to be another active winter season. Portions of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic are expected to see significant cold snaps over the course of the winter, although the cold is
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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Declines to Adopt Restatement (Third) of Torts in Product Liability Cases

In a landmark decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declined to adopt the Restatement (Third) of Torts in product liability cases. Jurisdictions that adopted the Third Restatement allow defendants to introduce evidence regarding the foreseeability of a product’s risks and require plaintiffs to establish that a safer alternative design was viable when the product was manufactured. In a 4-2 decision in the matter of Tincher v. OmegaFlex, the Court continued to apply the Second Restatement, which focuses upon the characteristics of the product and does not permit consideration of a manufacturer’s conduct or the feasibility of an alternative design. In support
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Insurers Must Establish State of Mind for NJ Insurance Fraud Protection Act Claims

The New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division recently issued an opinion highlighting the challenges of establishing liability against a policyholder for violation of the Insurance Fraud Protection Act (“IFPA”). In Continental Cas. Co. v. Hochschild, the Court addressed alleged misrepresentations made by a recreational boat owner when applying for an insurance policy. These misrepresentations were discovered after the policyholder submitted a claim for fire damage to the boat. Accordingly, the insurer denied coverage and cancelled the policy. The insurer subsequently brought a declaratory judgment action against the policyholder, seeking to declare the policy void based upon the alternative causes of
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