Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Rizzo v. Allstate Insurance Co.

Supreme Court of New Hampshire

May 1, 2018

JOSEPH RIZZO
v.
ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY

          Argued: September 14, 2017

          Boynton, Waldron, Doleac, Woodman & Scott, P.A., of Portsmouth (Francis X. Quinn, Jr. on the brief and orally), and McDowell & Osburn, P.A. of Manchester (Gordon A. Rehnborg, Jr. on the brief), for the plaintiff.

          Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer PC, of Manchester (Gary M. Burt and Brendan D. O'Brien on the brief, and Mr. Burt orally), for the defendant.

          BASSETT, J.

         The defendant, Allstate Insurance Company, appeals an order of the Superior Court (Colburn, J.) granting the motion for partial summary judgment filed by the plaintiff, Joseph Rizzo, and denying the cross-motion for partial summary judgment filed by Allstate. Rizzo alleged he was injured in an automobile accident while a passenger in a car insured by Allstate. Rizzo sought uninsured motorist coverage under the Allstate policy, and, after Allstate denied his claim, the claim went to arbitration. The uninsured motorist provision in the Allstate policy provides that if the arbitration award exceeds $25, 000, the financial responsibility limits in New Hampshire, see RSA 259:61, I (2014), the insured and Allstate have the right to elect a trial de novo following arbitration. Allstate rejected the arbitration award, which exceeded the financial responsibility limits, and requested a trial de novo. The trial court ruled that the trial de novo provision in the policy is not enforceable because it is unconscionable, ambiguous, and violates public policy, and confirmed the arbitration award. We reverse and remand.

         The relevant facts are not in dispute. On September 9, 2009, Rizzo was a passenger in a car operated by Linda Matz. The car was struck from behind by a car that had been rear-ended by another vehicle driven by Genci Naum. Matz was insured by Allstate under a policy that provided $100, 000 of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Naum was insured by Liberty Mutual under a policy that had a $20, 000 policy limit. The accident was Naum's fault. Rizzo alleged that he was injured in the collision.

         Rizzo settled his personal injury claim against Naum for the $20, 000 policy limit in Naum's Liberty Mutual policy. Because Rizzo claimed that his damages exceeded $20, 000, he sought underinsured motorist coverage under Matz's Allstate policy. Allstate denied Rizzo's claim, asserting that his injuries were pre-existing, that any "related exacerbation of [his] alleged pre-existing condition would have been short lived, " and that he had been fully compensated by the Liberty Mutual settlement. (Quotation omitted.) Rizzo demanded arbitration under the Allstate policy, which stated in part:

If the insured person or we don't agree on that person's right to receive any damages or the amount, then at the written request of either the disagreement will be settled by arbitration. . . . .
Regardless of the method of arbitration, any award not exceeding the limits of the Financial Responsibility law of New Hampshire will be binding and may be entered as a judgment in a proper court.

         The arbitration panel awarded Rizzo $63, 000, with a $20, 000 offset for the Liberty Mutual settlement.

         Shortly thereafter, Allstate informed Rizzo that it was rejecting the arbitration award, and that it was invoking its right to trial pursuant to a provision in the policy that provided:

Regardless of the method of arbitration, when any arbitration award exceeds the Financial Responsibility limits in the State of New Hampshire, either party has a right to trial on all issues in a court of competent jurisdiction. . . . Costs, including attorney fees, are to be paid by the party incurring them.

         In response, Rizzo filed suit in superior court claiming breach of contract, and seeking to have the arbitration award confirmed, because the trial de novo provision in the Allstate policy was "unenforceable, ambiguous and void for violation of public policy." The parties filed cross-motions for partial summary judgment. The trial court granted Rizzo's motion for summary judgment, denied Allstate's motion, and confirmed the arbitration award. This appeal followed.

         "A moving party is entitled to summary judgment if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits filed, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Jeffery v. City of Nashua, 163 N.H. 683, 685 (2012) (quotation omitted). "In reviewing the trial court's grant of summary judgment, we consider the affidavits and other evidence, and all inferences properly drawn from them, in the light most favorable to the non-moving party." Id. "If our review of that evidence discloses no genuine issue of material fact, and if the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, we will affirm the grant of summary judgment." Id. "We review the trial court's ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.