A Capehart Scatchard Blog

Plaintiff Covered by Domestic Partner’s Verbal Threshold Selection in Insurance Policy

By on October 12, 2018 in Civil Lawsuits with 0 Comments

Plaintiff Robert Calderone (“Calderone”) claimed to have been injured as a result of an automobile accident with the defendant Michael DeFeo II (“DeFeo”). After Calderone sued DeFeo for his injuries, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, requesting a dismissal on the basis that plaintiff’s injuries did not satisfy the verbal threshold (also known as “the lawsuit threshold”). The issue presented to the trial court in Calderone v. DeFeo, 2018 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 2192 (Law Div. Sept. 28, 2018) was whether plaintiff was subject to the verbal threshold of his domestic partner with whom he had resided for the past 38 years.

Plaintiff filed a lawsuit after being rear-ended by DeFeo’s vehicle. He claimed that he was not bound by the lawsuit limitation set forth in N.J.S.A. 39:6A-8a. If not, he would not be required to show that he suffered a serious bodily injury, as defined by this statute (the “verbal threshold” or “limitation on lawsuit” option.) Plaintiff argued that he was not subject to the verbal threshold of his domestic partner, Joseph Amorino (“Amorino”), despite living together for the past 38 years and being listed on Amorino’s insurance policy as a member of the household. Calderone claimed that because they had not entered into a civil marriage, he did not qualify as either Amorino’s “spouse” or “immediate family member residing with the insured.” Thus, he argued that he should be entitled to pursue his personal injury claim against the defendant without being subject to the lawsuit threshold.

The trial judge rejected these arguments. The court stated that the terms of the insurance policy control this issue. He noted that Amorino’s Plymouth Rock insurance policy included within the definition of a family member “a lawfully recognized civil union under New Jersey law or adoption and resides in your household.” Further, the policy defines a named insured to include a spouse or “a Domestic partner who is registered as such under any states domestic partner or civil union law.”

Also, Calderone is listed on the Declarations page as a “Licensed Operator Resident in Your Household.” Calderone did not have his own insurance. He was apparently added onto Amorino’s policy to provide coverage for him.  The trial judge found that it was objectively reasonable to infer that Amorino’s addition of Calderone as a member of his household was because he intended to cover him as well.

The trial judge found that the interpretation of an insurance policy was a determination to be made by the court and the Declarations page of a policy was to be given significant weight. The court judge found that the terms of the policy included both domestic partners, as well as spouses, within the definition of an insured. Because the policy specifically included domestic partners as insureds, the plaintiff did not need to be married to Amorino to be covered by his policy. Therefore, the court concluded that Calderone was included in Amorino’s insurance policy as a domestic partner and was bound by the lawsuit limitation as well.


Tags: ,

About the Author

About the Author:

Ms. Ramos is an Executive Committee Member and Co-Chair of the Litigation Department at Capehart Scatchard, P.A. located in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. She is an experienced litigator with over 30 years experience handling diverse matters. Practice areas include tort defense, business litigation, estate litigation, tort claims and civil rights defense, construction litigation, insurance coverage, employment litigation, shareholder disputes, and general litigation.

For the years 2020-2023, Ms. Ramos was selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© in the practice area of Litigation - Insurance. The attorneys on this list are selected based upon the consensus opinion of leading lawyers about the professional abilities of their colleagues within the same geographical area and legal practice area. A complete description of The Best Lawyers in America© methodology can be viewed via their website at: https://www.bestlawyers.com/methodology.

In 2021, Capehart Scatchard and Ms. Ramos received the “Best Law Firm” ranking in the area of Litigation – Insurance (Metro, Tier 3) published by U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers®. Law firms included on the list are recognized for professional excellence with consistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. To be eligible for a ranking, a firm must have at least one attorney who has been included in the current edition of Best Lawyers in America, which recognizes the top five percent of practicing lawyers in the United States. Betsy Ramos (Litigation – Insurance) was recognized for this prestigious award in the 2021 edition. For a description of the “Best Law Firm” selection methodology please visit: https://bestlawfirms.usnews.com/methodology.aspx.

“Best Law Firms” is published by Best Lawyers in partnership with U.S. News & World Report. For a description of the selection methodology please visit: https://bestlawfirms.usnews.com/methodology.aspx.

*No aspect of this advertisement has been submitted to or approved by the Supreme Court of New Jersey.


Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.