insurance policy Credit: Bigstock

A committee of the New Jersey Legislature has recommended passage of a bill that would require employers and owners of multiple-dwelling properties to maintain liability insurance policies of at least $500,000.

S-822 would mandate purchase of liability insurance policies covering negligence-caused personal injury and property damage alleged in third-party lawsuits.

The Senate Commerce Committee on Thursday unanimously voted to advance the measure.

“The bill will not only protect New Jersey citizens who find themselves injured or harmed on a business’ property but will also protect our small business owners who could be financially ruined by expensive lawsuits after accidents,” said the sponsor, Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, in his statement.

“No one wants or expects accidents to happen, but they do, and we need to be sure employers and property owners have adequate insurance. I hope that the bill will provide relief for non-employees and their families in the event of unexpected and unfortunate circumstances on a business’ property,” added Scutari, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.

There was no opposition to the bill during the committee hearing on Monday, but there was some give-and-take between Scutari and the ranking Republican on the committee, Sen. Gerald Cardinale of Bergen County.

Cardinale wanted to know from where the $500,000 figure originated.

“It’s the standard amount,” Scutari replied.

Cardinale, who eventually voted to pass the bill, said he would prefer the minimum amount to be $25,000.

“I don’t think anyone even writes that,” Scutari said of insurance policies in that amount.

Scutari’s release cited a 2005 study by the federal Small Business Administration finding that small businesses can lose thousands in lawsuits, and can obtain liability policies for relatively little money. Such policies cover third-party injuries and property damage, as well as product liability and advertising errors.

The bill still must be approved by the full Senate and the Assembly, and be signed by Gov. Phil Murphy, if it is to become law. There was no companion version in the Assembly as of Tuesday.