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N.J. Supreme Court reverses, rules in Admiral’s favor

window coverings

The New Jersey Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling Wednesday and upheld Admiral Insurance Co.’s denial of coverage to a window coverings company, which was based on a policy exclusion.

Santa Fe Springs, California-based Richfield Window Coverings LLC, which does business as Nien Made (USA), sells window coverings to national retailers such as Home Depot, and provides the retailers with cutting machines designed to cut blinds to customers’ specifications, according to the unanimous ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court in Trenton in Norman International Inc. and Richfield Window Coverings LLC, d/b/a/ Nien Made (USA) Inc. v. Admiral Insurance Co.

W.R. Berkley Corp. unit Admiral issued a general liability insurance policy to Richfield that included an exclusion that said it does not provide coverage for any liability in certain specifically identified counties in New York, including Nassau.

An employee of a Home Depot store in Freeport, New York, in Nassau County, severed parts of her fingers while operating a blind cutting machine provided at Home Depot and maintained by Richfield, according to the ruling. She and her husband filed suit against Richfield on charges including negligent design.

When Admiral denied coverage for Richfield’s claim in the case, Richfield filed suit against the insurer in state court, which ruled in the insurer’s favor.

A state appeals court reversed that ruling, finding there was no “causal relationship” between Richfield’s activities involving the machine and the causes of action raised in the complaint.

That ruling was overturned by the supreme court’s unanimous ruling in the insurer’s favor. The clause that lists which counties are excluded states the insurance did not apply to bodily injury that is “in any way connected with” the insured, the decision said.

“There is clearly a connection between Richfield providing the machine to Home Depot and (the injured employee’s) injuries; had Richfield not provided the machine to the Home Depot, (the employee) would not have been using it and would not have accidentally severed her fingers,” it said, in overturning the appeals court and ruling Richfield had not filed a covered claim.

Richfield attorney Ryan Milun, of the Milun Law Firm, in Cranford, New Jersey, said in a statement the Supreme Court “interpreted the exclusion very broadly rendering most of the exclusion language superfluous.”

Admiral’s attorney had no comment.