In a 3-0 decision handed down on October 9, 2013, in the case of Allstate v. Lajara, an Appellate Division panel upheld Judge Kenneth Grispin’s interlocutory ruling that there is no statutory or constitutional right to a jury trial in cases brought under the New Jersey Insurance Fraud Prevention Act, N.J.S.A. 17:33A-1, et. seq. (the “IFPA”).
The Court’s decision relied in part upon its finding that the IFPA provides equitable remedies, and a requires fewer elements of proof of a violation than common law claims of fraud. The Court also looked to the “Act’s general purpose to combat fraud and control insurance rates,” and stated that this purpose further supported its “conclusion that defendants have no constitutional right to a jury trial.” The Court also relied upon the Legislature’s failure to include a right a jury trial in the IFPA. “Although the Legislature’s silence is not dispositive, it is a significant factor weighing against the finding of a statutorily implied right,” the court stated. “[W]e should be reluctant to infer statutory provisions of law when the Legislature has not seen fit to expressly include them.”
This decision is an important victory for Allstate and other insurance companies fighting complex insurance fraud schemes in New Jersey. The nature of these cases, which require extensive and often complex testimony and evidence, require many weeks, if not months to try. This decision will enable these kinds of cases to be tried to a judge, who can hear these cases in segments tried over a period of weeks or months, and requiring the parties where appropriate to supplement their respective positions with briefs, proposed findings of facts and other submissions designed to narrow and define the issues in dispute, and thereby assisting the court in reaching a verdict.
PQA partner Tom Mulvihill briefed and argued the appeal on behalf of Allstate.