A woman wounded in a drive-by shooting in Irvington can't have her medical expenses paid by the state's uninsured motorist coverage, the state Supreme Court ruled today.
Though the court ruled the woman's injuries qualified as an "accident" under state insurance law, the justices concluded the shooting was not caused by "the ownership, maintenance, operation or use of an uninsured motor vehicle."
APNew Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner speaks as Justices Virginia Long, left, and Jaynee LaVecchia, right.
The high court ruled 4-3, in a decision written by Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto, that the victim's "injuries from the drive-by shooting were not causally connected to the insured's use of her motor vehicle."
In a dissent, Justice John E. Wallace held that the victim's shooting could logically be related to the use of a motor vehicle
"The operation or use of the uninsured vehicle provided the 'opportunity for the assault' and would not likely have occurred 'without the use of a car.'" Justices Virginia Long and Barry T. Albin joined Wallace in the dissent.
The victim, Camie Livsey, had just made a purchase at a grocery store in Irvington when she was shot while returning to her car on February 21, 2005.
Two witnesses said they saw an older model Toyota fleeing the scene, but it was never determined who fired the shot or whether it came from the Toyota.
The victim, whose medical bills exceeded $600,000, filed a claim for uninsured motorist coverage, but her automobile insurance carrier, the Mercury Insurance Group, denied the claim. Mercury said Livsey's shooting was not caused by an accident involving an uninsured motor vehicle.
Livsey filed a lawsuit against Mercury that was dismissed by a trial court judge, but an appeals court reversed that decision, likening Livsey's case to others in which drive-by-shooting victims were covered under their automobile insurance's personal injury protection.
In reversing the appeals court ruling, the Supreme Court held that while personal - injury protection covers injuries "caused by...an object propelled by or from an automobile," no such language exists under uninsured motorist coverage.
Neither Livsey's nor Mercury's lawyers could immediately be reached for comment.