An East Orange teenager who was severely injured in a crash while riding in a stolen car may be entitled to coverage under his family's auto-insurance policy, an appellate court ruled today. The Superior Court Appellate Division sent the case back to a lower court for a retrial on the question of whether the boy, Tyrell Hardy, knew that the vehicle was stolen. "In our view, an exclusion from coverage of persons who did not know or have reason to know that they were riding in a (stolen car) would be unrealistic and not objectively reasonable..." Judge Edith Payne wrote for the three-judge panel in the decision. The case, which appears to be the first of its kind in New Jersey, hinges on a clause in Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. policies that denies benefits to people riding in a car without the owner's authorization. But Hardy's attorneys claim the teen did not know the car was stolen. They assert that he is entitled to personal injury and uninsured motorist benefits under a Liberty Mutual policy maintained by his grandmother, Vera Dowdell. Randi Greenberg, who handled Hardy's appeal, said the Appellate Division ordered its decision published because the state's courts have never addressed such a case. "This particular fact pattern, with an unwitting passenger of a stolen car, has not come up before in New Jersey," Greenberg said. On the afternoon of Oct. 20, 2004, Hardy, then 14, was in the back seat of a stolen Subaru Imprezza that was being driven by Hamza Abdul-Matin, 16, and had a 24-year-old, Alquan Edwards, in the front passenger seat. A witness said the Subaru was going about 80 miles per hour when it rammed into a Public Service Electric & Gas truck in an East Orange intersection. The Subaru burst into flames, and its occupants had to be pulled from the wreckage. Edwards was fatally injured in the crash, and Abdul-Matin escaped on foot with a broken femur and head lacerations. He was arrested later and pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and receiving stolen property. Hardy, who was not charged with a crime, was in the hospital for a month with a broken leg, a displaced pelvis, broken facial bones and other injuries.