Two Insurance-Related Appeals for the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court announced that it has granted certification in two new appeals. Both involve insurance, though in very different ways. And one of the appeals is from a published Appellate Division decision, while that court’s ruling in the other case was an unpublished three-judge ruling.

The appeal from the published opinion is Meyers v. State Health Benefits Commission. The question presented, as phrased by the Supreme Court Clerk’s office, is “In this matter in which the State Health Benefits Commission ordered health care insurance premiums to be deducted from petitioner’s monthly retirement payment, did the Appellate Division err by failing to consider the issue of equitable estoppel?” The Appellate Division’s opinion, reported at 474 N.J. Super 1 (App. Div. 2022), and summarized here, held that the plain language of the governing statute made it unnecessary to consider plaintiff’s equitable estoppel argument.

The other new appeal is AC Ocean Walk, LLC v. American Guarantee & Liability Insurance Company. That case presents this question: “Under the terms of the insurance policies, did the presence of COVID-19 or related Executive Orders cause a ‘direct physical loss of or damage’ to plaintiff’s property, and if so, did the contamination exclusions in the policies apply?” The Appellate Division held that there was no coverage and affirmed a ruling of the Law Division that had granted defendants’ motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.

A number of other filed cases have presented similar issues involving claims under business interruption insurance related to COVID-19. Those cases include Mac Property Group LLC v. Selective Fire & Cas. Ins. Co., 473 N.J. Super. 1 (App. Div. 2022), in which the Appellate Division, ruling in multiple consolidated cases, also found no basis for coverage. Petitions for certification were filed, but he Supreme Court denied review there. 252 N.J. 258, 261 (2002).