In a case involving the Personal Injury Protection Reimbursement Statute at N.J.S.A. 39:6A-9.1, the Appellate Division recently held that the issue of whether a party is a tortfeasor is to be resolved at arbitration when that issue involves factual questions as to the fault or negligence of the insured. Liberty Mutual v. Penske Truck Leasing Co., et al., - N.J. Super. – (App. Div. 2019).
In October 2016, a tractor-trailer truck driven by Albert Kika struck a pick-up truck driven by Eugene Jerinsky. Jerinsky had an automobile liability insurance policy provided by Liberty which paid PIP benefits. Liberty then requested reimbursement from Kika’s employer, Ceva. Ceva owned and self-insured the truck driven by Kika.
Section 9.1 allows automobile insurers to recover PIP benefits through reimbursement against certain tortfeasors who are not required to maintain PIP protection or did not maintain PIP protection. If the parties cannot agree, the dispute is to be resolved in arbitration.
Liberty and Ceva disagreed as to whether Kika’s negligence was a legal issue to be determined in court proceedings as opposed to arbitration. The Appellate Division held that while purely legal questions should be decided by courts, the question of whether Kika was a tortfeasor was a factual issue and thus was appropriate for arbitration.