Liberty Mutual Group, Inc. v. 700 Pharmacy, LLC, 2022 Pa. Super. 19, No. 3357 EDA 2019 (February 1, 2022) (Nichols, J.). Case brought by insurance companies against pharmacies. The claim was for fraud, insurance fraud, aiding and abetting and unjust enrichment. Appellants claimed that pharmacies created an unlawful business structure under which doctors prescribed topical compound pain creams to patients who had been injured at work or in automobile accidents. The patients then filled the prescriptions at pharmacies in which the doctors had a financial interest. Appellees alleged that the compound pain creams were formulated by the pharmacies for the sole purpose of generating a profit and that the doctors were receiving unlawful kickbacks. The matter was dismissed, in that no misrepresentation, fraud or other claim was shown.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UIM BENEFITS-WAIVER-RESIDENT RELATIVE-RETROACTIVITY
Ford v. Progressive Specialty Ins. Co., 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36389 (E.D. Pa. March 2, 2022) (Slomsky, J.). In Donovan v. State Farm, a decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Donovan suffered significant injuries during a collision of his motorcycle with an underinsured vehicle. 256 A.3d 1145, 1147 (Pa. 2021). He initially filed liability claims with two insurance companies. From the first insurance company, he recovered the $25,000 policy limit on the underinsured vehicle. Id. From the second insurance company, which insured his motorcycle, he recovered the $50,000 limit. Id. He believed that the $75,000 total was not adequate to compensate him for his injuries. Id. So he then sought to recover underinsured motorist benefits from his mother’s insurance policy, where he was insured as a resident relative. Id. His mother’s policy insured three vehicles, but not the motorcycle. Id. The underinsured motorist liability limits for each vehicle could have been stacked, but his mother had signed the stacking waiver form statutorily provided in 75 Pa. C.S.A § 1738(d), a provision of the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (“MVFRL”). Id. Because of this signed waiver and the fact that his mother’s policy also had a household vehicle exclusion, which bars coverage for a vehicle owned by a resident relative not insured under the Policy, the insurance company denied Donovan’s claim under this policy. Id. at 1148. He then sought declaratory relief, claiming that the waiver provision in 75 Pa. C.S.A. § 1738(d) is not a knowing waiver of inter-policy stacking when policies insure multiple vehicles.
Based upon two other Pennsylvania Supreme Court cases, Gallagher v. GEICO Indemnity Company, 650 Pa. 600, 201 A.3d 131, 137 (Pa. 2019) and Craley v. State Farm, 586 Pa. 482, 895 A.2d 530 (Pa. 2006), the Donovan Court held as follows:
[W]e are bound by the language of Section 1738(d)‘s waiver form… As highlighted in the majority and concurring opinions in Craley, this language informs insureds that they are waiving intra-policy stacking as they will not be provided the “sum of the limits for each motor vehicle under the policy.” It does not, however, alert insureds that they are waiving the ability to stack the coverage for which premiums were paid in “this policy” on top of the coverage available under a separate policy.
After review, we find the logic of the case at bar indistinguishable from that in Gallagher. In both cases, the insured did not validly waive inter-policy stacking. Whether the insured did not sign a waiver, as in Gallagher, or signed a deficient waiver as to inter-policy stacking, as in [Donovan], the result is the same: the policy defaults to inter-policy stacking of UM/UIM coverage. In either case, the household vehicle exclusion cannot operate as a de facto waiver of inter-policy stacking because it fails to provide the insured with a knowing waiver of that coverage.
Id. at 1158, 1160 (emphasis added).
In this case, Plaintiff Michael Ford (“Plaintiff’) was driving his motorcycle and collided with an underinsured vehicle. He received the $15,000 in liability coverage from the insurance company insuring the underinsured vehicle. Plaintiff also had two of his own insurance policies: one at Progressive Preferred Insurance Company covering his motorcycle and another at a different insurance company, Defendant Progressive Specialty Insurance Company (“Defendant”). Two other vehicles were insured by Defendant. The company insuring the motorcycle paid the full amount of coverage, $25,000. However, Defendant declined to pay any underinsured benefits, claiming that Plaintiff waived inter-policy stacking under 75 Pa. C.S. § 1738(d) by signing the waiver. Thereafter, Plaintiff, on behalf of himself and putative class members, commenced this action, seeking a declaratory judgment in Count I and asserting a claim for breach of contract in Count II against Defendant for breaching the insurance policy by not paying the stacked coverage under its insurance policy.
This court predicts that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will hold Donovan retroactive. Consequently, plaintiff does state a claim against defendant for breach of contract and will survive the motion to dismiss. However, there is no proper declaratory judgment. The declaratory judgment action is duplicative of the breach of contract claim and should be dismissed.
FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UNDERINSURED MOTORIST COVERAGE-EXCLUSION-REGULAR USE EXCLUSION
Evanina v. First Liberty Ins. Corp., 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 33922 (M.D. Pa. February 25, 2022) (Mannion, DJ). Whether the regular use exclusion is contrary to the provisions of the MVFRL and therefore invalid and unenforceable has not been definitively resolved by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court requiring this court to predict how the Pennsylvania Supreme Court would rule on the issue. In Rush v. Erie Insurance Exchange, 265 A.3d 794 (Pa. Super. 2021), the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled on the issue and determined that the regular use exclusion is contrary to the MVFRL and is therefore invalid and unenforceable. Moreover, as discussed above, in a number of cases, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has considered and ruled upon the household use exclusion, which is a substantially similar exclusion to the regular use exclusion. In doing so, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has determined that the household use exclusion is invalid and unenforceable as it is inconsistent with the unambiguous requirements of the MVFRL. Considering the trend of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in its rulings on the household use exclusion, as well as now Chief Justice Baer’s concurring opinion in Sayles v. Allstate, 219 A.3d 1110 (Pa. 2019) which highlights the “unsettling trend” among insurance companies to attempt to circumvent the clear language of the MVFRL, in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Superior Court’s recent decision in Rush, this court predicts that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will find the regular use exclusion is contrary to the unambiguous provisions of the MVFRL and therefore invalid and unenforceable, as it did with respect to the household vehicle exclusion. As such, the defendant’s motion for summary judgment will be denied. An appropriate order shall issue.
FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UNDERINSURANCE-EXCLUSIONS-REGULAR USE EXCLUSION
Johnson v. Progressive Advanced Ins. Co., 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 32154 (W.D. Pa. February 23, 2022) (Schwab, D.J.). Plaintiff was seriously injured in an automobile accident on January 14, 2018. Tortfeasor’s carrier, GEICO, paid bodily limits of $15,000. Plaintiff lived with his sister. He was a regular user of his sister’s vehicle. He was driving the sister’s vehicle at the time of the accident. He requested UIM benefits through his sister’s automobile policy. He was a resident relative. However, this policy had an exclusion for one who is not listed as a regular user of the vehicle. The regular use exclusion had been declared illegal in Rush v. Erie Insurance Exchange, 265 A.3d 794 (Pa. Super. 2021). The insurance carrier, Progressive, refused to pay. The court denied Progressive’s motion for summary judgment based upon Rush. The court looked at Williams v. GEICO, 32 A.3d 1195 (Pa. 2011), which barred individuals from obtaining UIM coverage when a policy contained a “regular-use” exclusion. However, after Williams, the court decided Rush. Until the Supreme Court reverses Rush, the federal court will follow it.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UNDERINSURANCE-STACKING-INTER-POLICY
Donovan v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 4232 (3rd Cir. February 16, 2022) (Ambro, C.J.). Corey Donovan was seriously injured while driving his motorcycle. He collected from the driver of the other vehicle involved in the accident and from his own motorcycle insurance. But these payments did not cover his medical expenses. So Corey also tried to collect on insurance State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company had issued to Linda Donovan, Corey’s mother with whom he lived. State Farm denied the claim. The Donovans and State Farm dispute whether, under Pennsylvania insurance law, Linda waived inter-policy stacking for underinsured motorist coverage.
This disposition is not an opinion of the court and is not binding precedent. Therefore, we are including it for interest only.
There are two types of stacking. Intra-policy stacking is the aggregation of the coverage limits on multiple vehicles covered under a single policy—even though not all vehicles are involved in the accident or occurrence. For example, if a two-vehicle policy provided $50,000 in coverage for each vehicle, intra-policy stacking would allow the insured to make a claim of up to $100,000. In contrast, inter-policy stacking is the aggregation of coverage limits for vehicles insured under separate policies. Here the dispute is about inter-policy stacking: Can Corey collect under both his motorcycle insurance and Linda’s automobile insurance?
Because this dispute is one of state law, we certified three questions to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Its ruling is dispositive on all issues raised on appeal, and so we will affirm the District Court’s grant of summary judgment to the Donovans.
The parties agree on the relevant facts. After Corey’s injuries from the motorcycle accident, he settled with the driver of the other vehicle for $25,000—the liability limit of that driver’s insurance policy. Corey also made a claim for underinsured motorist benefits on a motorcycle insurance policy State Farm had issued to him. It paid Corey the $50,000 policy limit.
Corey then made another claim for underinsured motorist benefits under the automobile insurance policy Linda had from State Farm (hereinafter “the Automobile Policy”). It covered three vehicles (none of which was the motorcycle) and offered underinsured motorist benefits up to a limit of $100,000. That policy also insured Corey as a resident relative. State Farm denied his claim for benefits under the Automobile Policy, explaining that Linda had waived stacked underinsured motorist coverage. Indeed, she had signed a waiver. It recited:
By signing this waiver, I am rejecting stacked limits of underinsured motorist coverage under the policy for myself and members of my household under which the limits of coverage available would be the sum of limits for each motor vehicle insured under the policy. Instead, the limits of coverage that I am purchasing shall be reduced to the limits stated in the policy. I knowingly and voluntarily reject the stacked limits of coverage. I understand that my premiums will be reduced if I reject this coverage.
J.A. at 237. This language was (and continues to be) mandated by § 1738(d) of Pennsylvania’s Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law. 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1738(d)(2). In practice, an insured can waive stacked coverage in exchange for a reduced premium.
Two other provisions of the Automobile Policy are relevant. First, it contained a “household-vehicle exclusion” that stated “THERE IS NO COVERAGE FOR AN INSURED WHO SUSTAINS BODILY INJURY WHILE OCCUPYING A MOTOR VEHICLE OWNED BY YOU OR ANY RESIDENT RELATIVE IF IT IS NOT YOUR CAR OR A NEWLY ACQUIRED CAR.” J.A. at 391 (emphasis in original). Corey’s motorcycle was not included on the declaration page of the Automobile Policy. Thus, if the household-vehicle exclusion is valid, it defeats his claim. Second, the Automobile Policy contained a “coordination-of-benefits provision” that explained:
If Underinsured Motor Vehicle Coverage provided by this policy and one or more other vehicle policies issued to you [i.e., Linda] or any resident relative [i.e., Corey] by one or more of the State Farm Companies applies to the same bodily injury, then:
- the Underinsured Motor Vehicle Coverage limits of such policies will not be added together to determine the most that may be paid; and
- the maximum amount that may be paid from all such policies combined is the single highest applicable limit provided by any one of the policies. We may choose one or more policies from which to make payment.
Id. at 392 (emphases in original). Translated into everyday language, this means that when an insured recovers on multiple policies issued by State Farm, his maximum payment is capped at the highest applicable coverage limit. If applicable here, this provision limits Corey to recovering at most $100,000 (i.e., the “single highest limit” provided by the State Farm policies) in total from his claims on the Automobile Policy and his motorcycle insurance. Since Corey already received $50,000 from the motorcycle policy, he would be limited to a payment of $50,000 from the Automobile Policy. The household-vehicle exclusion and the coordination-of-benefits provision are included in State Farm’s non-stacking policies but not in its stacking policies. Compare id. at 388, with id. at 391-92.
Corey and Linda Donovan sued State Farm in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County seeking a declaration that Corey is entitled to underinsured motorist benefits under the Automobile Policy. After State Farm removed the action to federal court, the parties stipulated to the facts and cross-moved for summary judgment. The District Court granted summary judgment to the Donovans.
State Farm appealed and, at the suggestion of both parties, we certified this case to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. It accepted the certified questions and issued a comprehensive opinion. Donovan v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 256 A.3d 1145 (Pa. 2021).
We certified the following three questions to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court:
- Is a named insured’s signing of the waiver form set out at 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1738(d) sufficient to waive inter-policy stacking of underinsured motorist benefits under Pennsylvania’s Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law, where the policy insures more than one vehicle at the time the form is signed?
- If the answer to Question 1 is no, is a household[-]vehicle exclusion contained in a policy in which the named insured did not validly waive inter-policy stacking enforceable to bar a claim made by a resident relative who is injured while occupying a vehicle owned by him and not insured under the policy under which the claim is made?
- If the answers to Questions 1 and 2 are no, is the coordination-of-benefits provision in the Automobile Policy nonetheless applicable, such that it limits Corey Donovan’s recovery of underinsured motorist benefits under the policy to $50,000, or does the lack of a valid waiver of inter-policy stacking render that provision inapplicable?
On the first question, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held no. It explained that the § 1738(d) waiver provision’s use of the singular in the phrase “under the policy” means that the waiver is limited to intra-policy stacking in multiple-vehicle policies, such as the Automobile Policy. Donovan, 256 A.3d at 1157; see also Craley v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 586 Pa. 482, 895 A.2d 530, 542 n.18 (Pa. 2006). In short, the plain language of the waiver appears, at least in the context of multiple-vehicle plans, to disclaim only stacking the coverage of the vehicles covered “under the policy.” See 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1738(d). Since the waiver does not mention other policies, it does not provide notice to insureds that they are also waiving inter-policy stacking.
On the second question, the Court again held in the negative. It concluded that the household-vehicle exclusion is unenforceable here because, when there is no valid § 1738(d) inter-policy stacking waiver, another contract provision cannot function as a de facto waiver. Donovan, 256 A.3d at 1160 (citing Gallagher, 201 A.2d 131 (holding that the household-vehicle exclusion was unenforceable when there was no waiver of inter-policy stacking)). And finally on the third question, the Court held the coordination-of-benefits provision was not a partial waiver of inter-policy stacking for the same reasons. Id. at 1162.
As a Court sitting in diversity, we must follow Pennsylvania substantive law as interpreted by its Supreme Court. Crystallex Int’l Corp. v. Petróleos de Venez., S.A., 879 F.3d 79, 84 (3d Cir. 2018). This means if that Court has addressed a substantive legal question of state law, we apply its holding. Here, the opinion it issued to answer our certified questions governs. The Automobile Policy did not contain a valid waiver of inter-policy stacking. And neither the household-vehicle exclusion nor the coordination-of-benefits provision can function as a de facto waiver of inter-policy stacking for underinsured motorist coverage. Accordingly, Corey is entitled to a payment up to the Automotive Policy’s coverage limit of $100,000.
* * * *
We thus affirm the judgment of the District Court.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UNDERINSURANCE-STACKING-HOUSEHOLD EXCLUSION
Smith v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co., 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9155 (E.D. Pa. January 19, 2022) (Baylson, J.). Considering the undisputed facts, and noting factual disputes where relevant, the events giving rise to this case are as follows. On June 26, 2018, Brendan Smith was riding his motorcycle when he was hit and injured by a driver who was exiting a driveway. Smith’s motorcycle was covered by an insurance policy issued by State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company that provided $15,000/$30,000 in underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. This is a form of coverage that comes into play when a tortfeasor injures an insured person and the tortfeasor’s own insurance coverage is insufficient to fully compensate the injured insured person. The injured insured person may then draw upon UIM coverage provided by their own insurer.
Following the accident, Smith received a $25,000 payout from Allstate Insurance Company, which was the insurer for the other driver in the accident. On the grounds that the Allstate payout was insufficient to compensate him for the accident, Smith filed a claim with State Farm and received $15,000 under his policy’s UIM coverage.
Asserting that the Allstate and State Farms payouts combined were still insufficient to compensate him, Smith then sought to recover under a policy purchased by his parents, Jane and Scott Smith. Smith was residing with his parents at the time and was therefore covered under their policy as a resident relative. This policy, which was issued by Nationwide, provided for $50,000/$100,000 in stacked UIM coverage for two vehicles. “Stacking” is the practice of allowing insurance coverage of individual vehicles to be combined to increase the total amount of coverage available to the insured; coverage for one vehicle can be “stacked” on the coverage for another vehicle.
Smith filed a claim to recover the Nationwide policy’s UIM benefits. Nationwide denied the claim based on a “household vehicle exclusion” in the policy. This provision states that there is no coverage for “[b]odily injury suffered while occupying a vehicle owned by you or a relative but not insured for Underinsured Motorists coverage under this policy; nor to bodily injury from being hit by any such motor vehicle.” The provision further states that if the insured elected stacked UIM coverage, “this exclusion does not apply to bodily injury suffered while occupying or struck by a motor vehicle owned by you or a relative that is insured for Underinsured Motorists coverage under any policy issued by us or any affiliated company.” (Id.)
Plaintiff brought suit against Defendant, alleging that Nationwide had improperly denied his claim. Plaintiff alleges that the household vehicle exclusion in the Nationwide policy violates Pennsylvania’s Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL) by improperly abrogating UIM coverage stacking. Seeking to certify a class of people insured by Nationwide who have been denied UIM coverage stacking under the household vehicle exclusion, Plaintiff filed his putative class action Complaint in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas in February 2019. Plaintiff brings a claim for breach of contract and seeks compensatory damages and declaratory relief.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court will deny Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment and grant Plaintiff’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment.
The Order stated: (1) Defendant’s Motion is DENIED; (2) Plaintiff’s Motion is GRANTED as to whether the Nationwide policy’s household vehicle exclusion violates the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law; (3) Defendant cannot deny Plaintiff’s insurance claim based on the household vehicle exclusion in the Nationwide policy.
Smith v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co., 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9155 (E.D. Pa. January 19, 2022) (Baylson, J.).
Kramer v. Nationwide Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 2021 Pa. Super. LEXIS 700 (December 2, 2021) Pellegrini, J. Lower court ordered Nationwide to provide a defense to parents in connection with the death of Michael T. Murray, Jr. The court did not err that Nationwide had a duty to defend. The parents’ son, Adam Kramer, hosted decedent in parents’ home. The plaintiffs’ decedent used drugs and died. Plaintiff alleged that the parents were negligent in allowing Kramer to use their home for illicit drug purposes.
Nationwide relied upon exemption dealing with the illegitimate use of prescription drugs or other drug use in connection with the personal property. The exclusion is for bodily injury. However, decedent’s family is also seeking emotional distress, mental distress or similar injury. None of those would be the direct result of bodily harm to decedent family itself. The court cites Rettger v. UPMC Shadyside, 991 A.2d 915, 922 (Pa. Super. 2010), recognizing that in a wrongful death suit a family may recover for its emotional and psychological loss. This does not fit within “bodily injury” exclusion.
ERISA-INSURANCE COMPANY CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Noga v. Fulton Fin. Corp. Emple. Benefit Plan, 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 35082 (3rd Cir. November 26, 2021) Phipps, C.J. In this suit under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, see 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B), a plan participant claims that an insurance-company fiduciary wrongfully terminated his benefits. The participant enrolled in his former employer’s welfare benefit plan, which provided long-term disability and life insurance benefits through group insurance policies. When his health deteriorated to the point that he could no longer do his job, the participant claimed benefits under both policies.
The insurance company, which funded and administered those policies, initially determined that the participant was totally disabled and authorized benefits under both policies. Its in-house medical professionals reaffirmed that conclusion for about two years. But then, with no recent change to the participant’s medical condition, the insurance company used a third-party vendor to select and retain an outside physician to evaluate the participant. After an in-person examination, that physician concluded that the participant was not totally disabled, and on that basis, the insurance company terminated benefits under both policies.
The participant administratively appealed, and the cycle repeated. The insurance company’s in-house medical professionals once again found the participant to be totally disabled, and the insurance company reinstated benefits. But it then used the same third-party vendor to arrange for a reevaluation of that assessment. This time, two outside medical professionals performed paper reviews of the file. Both made findings against total disability. Citing those reports along with the prior report from the other outside physician retained by the third-party vendor, the insurance company terminated the participant’s benefits — again.
Those multiple requests for additional outside medical reviews were irregular in their timing and prompting. To explain the requests made on administrative appeal — which were also irregular in their scope — the insurance company submitted an affidavit from one of its analysts. But in evaluating the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment, the District Court did not consider that affidavit. Instead, it analyzed the participant’s claim based on the administrative record, which the insurance company had filed. On that record, the District Court concluded that the termination of benefits was arbitrary and capricious, and it ordered their retroactive reinstatement.
In reviewing that order de novo, see Viera v. Life Ins. Co. of N. Am., 642 F.3d 407, 413 (3d Cir. 2011), we will affirm. A combination of structural and procedural factors compels that conclusion. The insurance company performed two functions that are in financial tension with each other: it determined eligibility for benefits, and it funded benefits. That creates a structural conflict of interest, which, by itself, is not a breach of fiduciary duty. But here, based on only the administrative record — not the proffered supplemental affidavit, which was properly excluded — the insurance company also deviated significantly from its normal eligibility-review processes, primarily through its anomalous requests for outside reevaluation of the participant. Those procedural irregularities aligned closely with the insurance company’s structural conflict of interest, so much so that the financial incentives at the core of the insurance company’s structural conflict influenced its fiduciary decision-making. For these reasons, as elaborated below, the insurance company abused its discretion in terminating the participant’s benefits, and the District Court properly ordered their retroactive reinstatement.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UIM COVERAGE-RAGULAR USE EXCLUSION
Rush v. Erie Ins. Exch., 2021 Pa. Super. LEXIS 646 (October 22, 2021) (Dubow, J.) Police officer was badly hurt when two cars hit him. He had his own insurance through Erie, but Erie refused to pay, citing the regular use exclusion. The insurance does not apply to bodily injury when the insured is using a non-owned motor vehicle which is regularly used by the insured but not insured with Erie. Of course, the police officer was in the police car and therefore was not using his own vehicle. The court found that the regular use exclusion was inconsistent with the Financial Responsibility Law. The regular use exclusion in the Erie policy limits the scope of UIM coverage required by Section 1731 by precluding coverage if an insured is injured while using a motor vehicle that the insured regularly uses but does not own. This exclusion conflicts with the broad language of Section 1731(c), which requires UIM coverage in those situations where an insured is injured arising out of the use of a motor vehicle.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UIM-ARISING OUT OF CAUSATION-PROXIMATE CAUSE-MOTORIZED VEHICLE
Urban v. Allstate Fire & Cas. Ins. Co., 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 196885 (E.D. Pa. October 13, 2021) (Strawbridge, M.J.) This accident occurred when Allstate refused to pay underinsurance benefits. The claim was brought by Urban against Allstate. Bryant Weisser, an underinsured motorist, was the driver of an automobile that struck a utility pole. The pole snapped. Urban was employed by Verizon. He was working on the pole that had snapped. He saw that the lines were hung low and drooping. Urban replaced pole “x” with a new pole. When Urban was reattaching the slacked cables, a different pole snapped and fell over. Urban was electrocuted but survived the incident. Allstate had issued Urban an automobile policy providing underinsured motorist benefits $100,000 per person and $300,000 per incident. The court found that the incident arose out of use of a vehicle, distinguishing other cases. A reasonable jury could find that Weisser’s ownership, maintenance or use of the underinsured vehicle was a “but for” cause of Urban’s injuries. Summary judgment denied. On proximate cause, Allstate blamed the electrocution on the poles. A reasonable jury could find that Weisser’s accident was a substantial factor in Urban’s electrical injury and therefore a proximate cause in the harm Urban suffered. Summary judgment denied. Reasonable minds cannot differ on the fact that Urban’s camper was not “self-propelled” which is required in order to qualify as a “motor vehicle” under Pennsylvania law. As a result, Urban cannot claim stacking of his UIM benefits for 3 motor vehicles as a matter of law. Summary judgment granted as to that issue.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILTY LAW-FEDERAL COURT
Dayton v. Employers Mut. Cas. Co., 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 197684 (M.D. Pa. October 13, 2021) (Mannion, J.) The law in the Third Circuit regularly finds that it is proper to retain jurisdiction over a declaratory judgment action in insurance cases where the substantive legal issue is purely one of law. There is no obligation to remand merely because a state law issue is presented to the court.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UIM-EXCLUSION-REGULAR USE EXCLUSION
Eberly v. LM Gen. Ins. Co., 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 179376 (E.D. Pa. September 21, 2021) (Smith, J.). In this action, the plaintiff seeks underinsured motorist (UIM) benefits on behalf of her husband, who was killed in a tragic automobile accident in June 2016. At the time of the accident, the decedent was operating a vehicle that was owned by and provided for his regular use by his employer. He was also covered under an insurance policy issued to him and his wife by the defendants, which provided for stacked UIM coverage. In addition, the plaintiff and the decedent’s son, who resided with them in their home at the time of the accident, also had an insurance policy issued to him by the defendants, which provided for non-stacked UIM coverage. The plaintiffs sought coverage under both policies, but the defendants denied those claims, citing the “regular use exclusion” contained in both policies.
The plaintiff thereafter brought the instant action seeking to obtain UIM benefits under the two policies. After removing the action to this court, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the regular use exclusion precluded coverage under both of the policies. The plaintiff filed a cross-motion for summary judgment, asking the court to find that the regular use exclusion violates Pennsylvania’s Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL) and public policy. For the reasons discussed below, the court grants the defendants’ motion for summary judgment and denies the plaintiffs’ cross-motion for partial summary judgment.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UIM-STACKING WAIVER
Franks v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 2021 Pa. Super. LEXIS 596 (September 24, 2021) (Lazarus, J.). Question was whether UIM coverage was $100,000 or $200,000. State Farm believed the $100,000 is UIM coverage, and Franks claimed it should be $200,000. After the number of vehicles insured under the policy was reduced from three to two, the Franks were never provided and did not sign another form rejecting stacked coverage. From the time of the inception of the policy to the time of the collision, the Franks were not charged a premium for stacked coverage. The Franks were charged at the lower premium for non-stacked coverage than they would have been charged by State Farm for stacked coverage. This is a question of first impression: whether the removal of a vehicle from an auto insurance policy providing non-stacked UIM coverage for three vehicles constitutes the “purchase” of coverage as contemplated by Section 1738(c) of the FRL such that the insured must be provided the opportunity to waive the stacked limits of coverage at the time of removal. It is clear that the Franks did not effectuate a “purchase” of coverage within the plain meaning of 1738(c). The Franks eliminated a portion of their existing coverage. The deletion of a vehicle from a policy does not result in a “purchase” as contemplated by the section. The removal of a vehicle from an insurance policy does not constitute a “purchase” of coverage requiring that the insured be provided the opportunity to waive the stacked limits of coverage at the time of the removal.
INURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UIM-REGULAR USE EXCLUSION
Campbell v. Travelers Home & Marine Ins. Co., 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 167939 (September 3, 2021) (Slomsky, J.). Since the “regular use” exclusion provision is valid and enforceable, the Court must decide if there is a genuine dispute of material fact over Traveler’s denial of UIM benefits under the Policy. Pennsylvania courts routinely hold that a vehicle is available for “regular use” when they are “readily obtainable [or] accessible” for use. Prudential Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co v. Armstrong, No. 03-4575, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4918, 2004 WL 603416, at *5-6 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 24, 2004). “Determining whether a vehicle was available for the insured’s ‘regular use’ is a fact-intensive inquiry. However, where the facts are not in dispute, and reasonable minds cannot differ as to the result, the issue of coverage can be decided as a matter of law by the Court.” 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4918, [WL] at *2 (quotation marks and citation omitted).
Here, no material facts concerning Plaintiff’s regular use of the tractor trailer are in dispute. The “regular use” exclusion provision unambiguously states:
We do not provide Underinsured Motorists Coverage or Underinsured Motorists Coverage for “bodily injury” sustained by you or any “family member” while occupying or when struck by any motor vehicle that you or any “family member” owns; or that is furnished or available for your or any “family member’s” regular use which is not insured for this coverage under this policy. . . .
At his deposition, Plaintiff testified that, at the time of the accident, the tractor trailer was furnished and available for his regular and daily use, used daily by him, and parked nightly at his home. Plaintiff’s statements show the tractor trailer was readily obtainable or accessible for his regular use. Additionally and tellingly, in his Response to Defendant’s Motion, Plaintiff does not deny that the tractor trailer falls within the “regular use” exclusion provision, and he provides no material facts to rebut his deposition testimony. The parties also do not dispute that the Travelers Policy did not insure the tractor trailer involved in Plaintiff’s accident. For these reasons, reasonable minds cannot differ that the tractor trailer was furnished and available for Plaintiff’s regular use and therefore not insured by the Travelers Policy. Consequently, there is no genuine dispute of material fact for trial, and Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UNDERINSURANCE-INTERCOMPANY STACKING-HOUSEHOLD EXCLUSION-COORDINATION OF BENEFITS
Donovan v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 2021 Pa. LEXIS 3394 (August 17, 2021) (Baer, C.J.). In this case, we granted review of three questions of law certified by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit regarding application of the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (“MVFRL”). First, we consider whether an insured’s signature on the waiver form mandated by 75 Pa.C.S. § 1738(d) results in the insured’s waiver of inter-policy stacking of underinsured motorist (“UIM”) coverage where the relevant policy insures multiple vehicles. After deeming the waiver invalid as applied to inter-policy stacking for multi-vehicle policies in light of this Court’s decision in Craley v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Co., 586 Pa. 482, 895 A.2d 530 (Pa. 2006), we next determine whether the policy’s household vehicle exclusion is enforceable following this Court’s recent decision in Gallagher v. GEICO Indemnity Company, 650 Pa. 600, 201 A.3d 131 (Pa. 2019). Finally, after concluding that the household vehicle exclusion is unenforceable absent a valid waiver of inter-policy stacking, we address the third question posed by the Court of Appeals regarding the applicability of the policy’s coordination of benefits provision for unstacked UIM coverage. After review, we hold that the policy’s coordination of benefits provision for unstacked UIM coverage does not apply absent a valid waiver of inter-policy stacking. Having answered these questions of law, we return the matter to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
The parties do not contest the facts of the case. In July 2015, Corey Donovan (“Corey”) suffered significant injuries due to a collision between a motorcycle, which he owned and was operating, and an underinsured vehicle. He recovered the $25,000 limit of coverage available under the policy insuring the underinsured vehicle as well as the $50,000 per person limit of UIM coverage available under Corey’s policy insuring the motorcycle (“Motorcycle Policy”), which was issued by State Farm Automobile Insurance Company (“State Farm”).
Corey then sought coverage under a policy issued by State Farm to his mother, Linda Donovan (“Linda”), under which he was insured as a resident relative (“Linda’s Auto Policy”). Linda’s Auto Policy insured three automobiles but not Corey’s motorcycle. Linda’s policy had a UIM coverage limit of $100,000 per person, and Linda signed a waiver of stacked UIM coverage on her policy which complied with the waiver form mandated by Section 1738(d) of the MVFRL. The waiver provided as follows:
UNDERINSURED COVERAGE LIMITS
By signing this waiver, I am rejecting stacked limits of underinsured motorist coverage under the policy for myself and members of my household under which the limits of coverage available would be the sum of limits for each motor vehicle insured under the policy. Instead, the limits of coverage that I am purchasing shall be reduced to the limits stated in the policy. I knowingly and voluntarily reject the stacked limits of coverage. I understand that my premiums will be reduced if I reject this coverage.
See 75 Pa.C.S. § 1738(d)(2). This statutorily-mandated waiver repeatedly references the limits of “the policy” rather than overtly addressing the affect of the waiver when multiple insurance policies apply for purposes of inter-company stacking.
The court said that the problem with this waiver language which does not cover inter-company stacking has to be solved by the legislature.
The plaintiff’s claim that Linda’s waiver of stacking was invalid as to inter-policy stacking and that Corey should receive the benefit of stacked UIM coverage which would provide an additional $100,000 of UIM coverage under Linda’s auto policy on top of the $50,000 Corey received from the Motorcycle Policy.
The court based its opinion on Craley v. State Farm, 895 A.2d 530 (Pa. 2006).
As highlighted in Craley, the statutory language informs insureds that they are waiving intra-policy stacking as they will not be provided the “sum of the limits for each motor vehicle under the policy.” It does not, however, alert insureds that they are waiving the ability to stack the coverage for which premiums were paid in “the policy” on top of the coverage available under a separate policy. In other words, it does not provide the necessary knowing waiver of inter-policy stacked coverage, absent the single-vehicle situation in Craley.
In the policy, the phrase “your car” refers to vehicles insured under the policy, which did not include Corey’s motorcycle. There is no question that Corey’s injuries sustained while operating his motorcycle will be excluded from coverage under the plain language of the provision. The question is whether this exclusion is enforceable following Gallagher v. GEICO Indemnity Company, 201 A.3d 131 (2019).
The case is not distinguishable from Gallagher. In both cases, the insured did not validly waive inter-policy stacking. Whether the insured did not sign the waiver, as in Gallagher, or signed a deficient waiver as to inter-policy stacking, as in this case, the result is the same: the policy defaults to inter-policy stacking of UM/UIM coverage. In either case, the household vehicle exclusion cannot operate as a de facto waiver of inter-policy stacking because it fails to provide the insured with a knowing waiver of that coverage. Accordingly, as in Gallagher, the household vehicle exclusion cannot be enforced to waive inter-policy stacking in regard to Linda’s auto policy as it does not comply with the requirements for waiver of stacking under § 1738(d).
The coordination of benefits provision that “the maximum amount that may be paid from all such policies combined is the single highest applicable limit provided by any one of the policies.” Also does not apply. If it applied, the highest applicable limit would be $100,000 provided by Linda’s auto policy. Given that Corey already received $50,000 from his motorcycle policy, he would receive only an additional $50,000 from Linda’s auto policy if the coordination of benefits provision applied. In effect, this implements the waiver of inter-policy stacked coverage as it eliminates the addition of the coverage provided by Linda’s auto policy to the coverage provided by Corey’s motorcycle policy.
Based upon the same reasoning as in Gallagher, the court concluded that the coordination of benefits provision cannot operate as a de facto waiver of inter-policy stacking. While other aspects of coverage may apply to Linda’s auto policy, the court would not apply the coordination of benefits provision to implement a stacking waiver when Linda did not validly waive inter-policy stacking.
As to the question whether named insured signing of a waiver form set out in 75 Pa. C.S. § 1738(d) sufficient to waive inter-policy stacking of underinsured motorist benefits under Pennsylvania’s Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law, where the policy insures more than one vehicle at the time the form is signed, the answer is “no”. The household vehicle exclusion in which the named insured did not validly waive inter-policy stacking is not enforceable to bar a claim made by a resident relative who was injured while occupying the vehicle owned by him and not insured under the policy under which the claim is made. Again, the answer is “no”. Coordination of benefits provision also does not apply.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILTY LAW-UIM-WAIVER
Eberly v. Firemen’s Ins. Co., 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 129905 (July 13, 2021) (Leeson, Jr., J.). This case involves a dispute about Underinsured Motorists benefits. Plaintiff, Cynthia G. Eberly, Individually and as Executrix of the Estate of Bryan L. Eberly, deceased, filed suit against Defendants, Firemen’s Insurance Company, Berkley Insurance Company, and Berkley Mid-Atlantic Group. Eberly seeks to obtain higher Underinsured Motorist (“UIM”) benefits and the stacking of UIM benefits from the policy issued to Decedent’s employer, BJ Baldwin Electric, Inc., in connection with an automobile accident in which Bryan L. Eberly was killed while driving a Baldwin vehicle. Defendants moved to dismiss the Complaint, which was granted.
Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss is granted. First, as to Eberly’s claims seeking more than $35,000 in UIM coverage, it is clear that BJ Baldwin’s signature on the election forms was on behalf of the corporate entity and that Baldwin validly elected a lower UIM benefit. In an abundance of caution, Eberly is granted leave to amend this claim. Second, as to Eberly’s request for stacking, Baldwin provided valid waivers of stacking UIM benefits. Additionally, the Policy provides coverage relating to BJ Baldwin Electric’s fleet of commercial vehicles and, as a matter of law, stacking is not allowed for a commercial fleet policy. This claim is therefore dismissed with prejudice. Finally, because the Complaint is dismissed, the Court will not address at this time Eberly’s contentions regarding whether Berkley Insurance Company and Berkley Mid-Atlantic Group are appropriate parties and whether the counts for declaratory judgment and damages for higher UIM benefits are duplicative.
INSURANCE-FORUM SELECTION CLAUSE
Van Divner v. Sweger, 2021 Pa. Super. LEXIS 391 (June 24, 2021) (Stevens, P.J.E.) This case held that forum selection clause in UIM policy is enforceable as to the county where the action must be brought. The UIM policy requires that an action be brought in the county of residence, which Progressive maintains here was Juniata County. The forum selection clause clearly ties the relevant time of residency to the time one brings the action. It plainly states the action must be brought in the county where one resides. There is nothing ambiguous about that. The clause unambiguously makes the timing of the accident the dispositive time of the insured’s residence for forum selection purposes. The forum selection clause was clear, unambiguous and enforceable as written. We nevertheless find that the court erroneously construed the clause to require transfer of an action to the county of residence at the time of the accident, Juniata County, instead of the respective counties of residence at the time the UIM actions were filed. Consistent with this, the Van Divner’s UIM action shall be transferred to Juniata County whereas appellant Collins’ UIM action shall be transferred to Dauphin County.
INSURANCE-DEFENSE-PSYCHIATRIC CENTER-WRONGFUL ACT-SEXUAL ASSAULT
Penn Psychiatric Ctr., Inc. v. United States Liab. Ins. Co., 2021 Pa. Super. LEXIS 384 (June 17, 2021) (Colins, J.) This is an appeal from an order dismissing an insurance coverage action brought by Penn Psychiatric Center, Inc. (Insured) against United States Liability Insurance Company (Insurer) on preliminary objections. Insured claimed that it was entitled to coverage under an employment practices insurance policy for an action brought against Insured and one of its therapists by Amanda Madonna and Adrienne Martorana, two former patients who had no employment relationship with Insured (the Underlying Action). The Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County (trial court) sustained Insurer’s preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer on the ground that the allegations in the Underlying Action do not fall within the definition of a “Wrongful Act” covered by Insurer’s policy. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm. The complaint in the underlying action asserts claims of negligent hiring, negligent supervision, negligent undertaking to render services, violations of the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, and negligent misrepresentation against the insured alleging that insured’s conduct caused the plaintiffs to be treated by and assaulted sexually by a therapist. There was also a claim of negligence per se, professional negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress against the therapist and against the insured on the grounds that the insured is vicariously liable for the therapist’s acts. There was also a claim of a HIPAA violation. The coverage has a number of exclusions, including that it would not cover “patient molestation”. Patient molestation includes acts of a sexual nature. Because the trial court correctly held that none of the claims in the underlying action are wrongful acts covered by the policy, we affirm the order sustaining the insured’s demurrer.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UIM BENEFITS-WAIVER-PURCHASE OF NEW VEHICLE
Kabba v. Allstate Fire & Cas. Ins. Co., 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 103927 (May 11, 2021) (Rufe, J.) In this case, the 2011 waiver is identified by a policy application number and a 2016 policy uses a different policy number. The record does not show the mechanism by which coverage for the 2013 Infiniti was obtained, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has noted that under some policy language, the addition of a new vehicle requires the insured to apply for a new policy. If it were necessary to apply for a new policy, a new waiver would have been required. Here, it was claimed that the waiver of UIM coverage was ineffective as to new cars. The court does not discuss the after-acquired auto clause or whether it was present in this policy brought against Allstate.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UIM COVERAGE-REGULAR USE EXCLUSION
Shepherd v. Talotta, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 77729 (April 22, 2021) (Kenney, J.) Automobile collision with a policy providing for UIM coverage. However, the UIM coverage excludes injuries sustained while driving a non-owned vehicle provided for the insureds’ regular use. The injured party asked the court to find that the insurance company, First Liberty, breached its contract by failing to provide UIM coverage because the “regular use exclusion” violates Pennsylvania law and is contrary to public policy. The court disagrees.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has regularly held that the express language of the MVFRL does not preclude the regular use exclusion. See Williams v. GEICO, 32 A.3d at 1209 (discussing Burstein v. Prudential Prop. & Cas. Inc., 570 Pa. 177, 809 A.2d 204 (Pa. 2002)). Because those cases govern and the Shepherds’ attempt to distinguish them fail, the “regular use exclusion” here does not violate the MVFRL, either.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has found that the “regular use exclusion” is not contrary to public policy. See Burstein, Williams. But the Court’s “final determination of whether the [“regular use] exclusion[”] complies with public policy is dependent on the factual circumstances of each case.” See Williams, 32 A.3d at 1204. So the Court considers the Shepherds’ argument that enforcing the exclusion would be contrary to public policy because First Liberty insured both UPS and Paul Shepherd, took Paul Shepherd’s premium payments directly from his UPS paycheck, and knew its UPS policy did not include UM/UIM insurance for UPS drivers. Taken to its logical conclusion, the Shepherds’ argument would require the Court to find that, as long as an individual purchases UM/UIM coverage for one car, their insurer has a duty to provide UM/UIM coverage to any and all vehicles that the insurer is aware a person may ever drive and that the insurer is aware does not already have UM/UIM coverage. The Court finds that this proposition is unsupported by the caselaw and is itself contrary to the public policy underlying the MVFRL.
Nor have the Shepherds provided any support for the proposition that knowing about a risk is the same as assuming a risk, or that the former creates a duty to do the latter. There is no unanimity of opinion that private insurers must provide UM/UIM coverage to employees driving work cars when their employers do not. In fact, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has determined that requiring private insurers to do so would itself be repugnant to the MVFRL. See Williams, 32 A.3d at 1208 (declining to find that the “regular use exclusion” violates public policy in part because employers would be incentivized to underinsure their motor vehicles, which contradicts the policy underlying the MVFRL). In sum, while the Shepherds’ arguments are creative, they do not carry the heavy burden to void an unambiguous exclusion on public policy grounds, particularly when that exclusion has previously been upheld in the employment context.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UIM COVERAGE-RESIDENT RELATIVE
Amica Mut. Ins. Co. v. Das, 2021 U.S. Dist LEXIS 61619 (E.D. Pa. March 30, 2021) (Jones, II, J.) Defendants Sununta C. Das, and Indra J. Das, commenced this action by filing a Complaint seeking Declaratory Judgment regarding Defendant Anita Das’s status as a “resident relative” for purposes of underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage and benefits.
Presently before the court is Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons set forth herein, Plaintiff’s Motion shall be granted.
On September 11, 2016, Anita Das was struck by a motor vehicle while riding her bicycle in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the time of the accident, Defendants Sununta C. Das and Indra J. Das had a Personal Auto Policy issued by Plaintiff Amica Mutual Insurance Company.
Anita Das was well beyond her undergraduate college years when the accident in question occurred. Additionally, she traveled domestically and internationally for several years after college and prior to the accident for both work and pleasure, taking up various temporary accommodations, though keeping her address of record the Indiana home address.
The policy at issue became effective August 21, 2016. Defendant Indra Das had been living in New York since March 2016. Defendant Sununta Das moved out of Indiana in August 2016—the month the policy at issue became effective. These facts, taken together with those set forth immediately above, lead this Court to conclude that Plaintiff was not a “resident relative” at the time of the accident.
“Occasional, sporadic, and temporary contacts are insufficient” to establish residency to establish residency under Pennsylvania. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Lewis, 935 F.2d 1428, 1431-32 (3d Cir. 1991). Anita Das was not a permanent resident of any one location but was a temporary resident of many. This Court concludes that ambiguity exists with respect to the term “resident relative” because it is susceptible to at least two reasonable interpretations. Applying the relevant factors for determining residency, the record clearly demonstrates Anita Das was not a resident of the Indiana house at the time of the accident. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment shall be granted.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILTY LAW-UIM-STACKING-WAIVER-RESIDENT RELATIVE
Erie Insurance Exchange v. Dodson, Pa. No. 19-1710 (C.P. Lycoming March 29, 2021) (Linhardt, J.) On October 8, 2019, Plaintiff Erie Insurance Exchange (“Erie Insurance” or “Plaintiff”) filed a Complaint in Declaratory Judgment (“Complaint”). Pursuant to the facts alleged in the Complaint, on May 21, 2017, Defendant Amos L. Dodson (“Mr. Dodson” or “Defendant”), while operating a Harley-Davidson 100 E Series motorcycle (“subject motorcycle” or “motorcycle”), was involved in a collision in which the other driver was tortuously liable. Mr. Dodson co-owned the subject motorcycle with Donald Ward Miller (“Mr. Miller”), and the motorcycle was insured to Mr. Miller under GEICO Indemnity Company insurance policy number 4321-90-56-73 (“GEICO Policy”). Under the GEICO Policy, Mr. Dodson would qualify for underinsured/uninsured (“UM/UIM”) benefits.
In addition to filing a claim under the GEICO Policy, Mr. Dodson also filed a claim for UIM benefits under Erie Insurance policy number Q08 0163767 (“Erie Policy”), issued to Mr. Dodson’s mother, Carol C. Houtz (“Ms. Houtz”). One vehicle is listed on the Erie Policy, a 2001 Ford Escape XLT. In Count I of the Complaint, Plaintiff seeks a determination Mr. Dodson was not a “resident” of Ms. Houtz’s household at the time of the accident as defined under the Erie Policy, and therefore would not be subject to coverage under the Erie Policy. In Count II, Plaintiff requests that if Mr. Dodson is found to be a resident, that his claim be dismissed as Ms. Houtz waived the stacking of benefits under the Erie Policy. Craley v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 895 A.2d 530 (Pa. 2006).
Craley is directly on-point. In Craley, Jayneann M. Craley (“Ms. Craley”) was killed in an accident attributable to the negligence of the other driver. Her husband, Randall Craley (“Mr. Craley”), obtained UIM benefits under a State Farm policy where Ms. Craley was the named insured. However, when Mr. Craley attempted to obtain UIM benefits under the State Farm policy where he was the named insured, his claim was denied based on his signing of a stacking waiver using language identical to the waiver in this case. The Court held that even though the waiver referred to “this policy,” because Mr. Craley had only one vehicle covered under his policy, there was no reasonable expectation that the waiver applied to intra-policy stacking, and therefore held that Mr. Craley had made a knowing waiver of inter-policy stacking. To find that the waiver of stacking did not apply to inter-policy stacking in this instance, the Court would not only have to disregard controlling precedent from our Supreme Court, but would effectively need to hold that a party may not waive interpolicy stacking under any circumstance, in contravention of 75 Pa.C.S § 1738(d). Further, Defendant’s argument that Mr. Dodson co-purchased the subject motorcycle after Ms. Houtz signed the stacking waiver is irrelevant, as the motorcycle was never added to the Erie Policy, nor did Ms. Houtz attempt to change the terms of her policy despite the fact that nothing precluded her from doing so. Lastly, Defendant’s last-hour argument that Ms. Houtz’s premium may not have, in actuality, been reduced after she signed the stacking policy should have been raised as an affirmative defense in new matter.
Pursuant to the foregoing, Plaintiff’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment was granted.
Continental Casualty Company v. Pennsylvania National Mutual Casualty Insurance, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 46561 (E.D. Pa. March 12, 2021) (Goldberg, J.) This Declaratory Judgment action involves a coverage dispute between two insurers stemming from a car accident and a significant personal injury settlement. Plaintiff Continental Casualty Company (“Continental”) has sued Defendant Pennsylvania National Mutual Casualty Insurance Company (“Penn National”) seeking reimbursement from Penn National, under an equitable contribution theory, for settlement sums paid by Continental. On May 22, 2019, I denied the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment, finding that genuine issues of material fact remained.
On September 24, 2020, I presided over a bench trial on the limited, but potentially dispositive issue of whether Penn National’s insured “borrowed” the vehicle involved in the accident, which would trigger Penn National’s liability under the Penn National insurance policies. Having considered the trial record, I find that Penn National’s insured did not “borrow” the vehicle and will grant judgment in favor of Defendant Penn National and against Plaintiff Continental.
As noted above, this case involves a claim for equitable contribution by Continental against Penn National. To recover on a claim of equitable contribution under Pennsylvania law, an insurer must show by a preponderance of the evidence that (1) it is one of several parties liable for a common debt or obligation; and (2) it discharged the debt for the benefit of the other parties.” Great Northern Ins. Co. v. Greenwich Ins. Co., 372 F. App’x 253, 254 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing In re Mellon’s Estate, 32 A.2d 749, 757 (Pa. 1943)). The first factor is at issue here.
As noted above, the Penn National Primary Policy provides liability coverage, in pertinent part, for a use by an “insured” for a “covered `auto’.” An “insured” includes “[a]nyone else while using with your permission a covered `auto’ you own, hire or borrow except: . . . [t]he owner or anyone else from whom you hire or borrow a covered `auto’.” Thus, the Penn National Primary Policy covers Shady Maple’s vicarious liability for Marquet-Sandt’s negligence only if Marquet-Sandt, acting with Shady Maple’s permission, “borrowed” the Yukon. The parties dispute the proper interpretation of the term “borrow” as used in the Policies at issue and whether, under the facts of this case, Marquet-Sandt borrowed the Yukon.
Considering the facts of the present case in conjunction with the precedent detailed above, I find that Shady Maple, acting through its employee Marquet-Sandt, never acquired control, dominion, or possession over the Yukon such that Shady Maple can be deemed to have “borrowed” that vehicle for purposes of triggering the Penn National Primary and Excess Policies.
Considering all of these facts, I find that Marquet-Sandt’s simple act of taking over the driving for a portion of a trip to a trade show on Shady Maple business does not equate to Shady Maple “borrowing” Sight & Sound’s car. Even though Marquet-Sandt received the benefit of getting a ride to the trade show and physically drove the car, “[b]orrowing requires more than an incidental benefit to the purported borrower, more than the existence of imprudent decisions, and more than unsafe driving.” Hanneman, 575 N.W.2d at 452. Luckenbaugh, on behalf of Sight & Sound, determined where they would be going, decided when they needed to stop, and intended to take over driving after stopping at the McDonald’s. The Yukon displayed advertising for Sight & Sound and, at the time of the accident, was carrying Sight & Sound materials needed for the trade show. Luckenbaugh remained in the car at all times and testified that, if Marquet-Sandt had driven separately in her vehicle, he still would have driven the Yukon to the trade show. Ultimately, even though Marquet-Sandt was physically behind the wheel of the car, Luckenbaugh—and by extension, Sight & Sound—remained in possession and control of the vehicle. Accordingly, I do not find that Shady Maple, acting through Marquet-Sandt, borrowed the Yukon.
As Shady Maple did not “borrow” the car, neither the Penn National Primary Policy nor the Penn National Excess Policy was triggered, meaning that Penn National owed no defense or coverage in the underlying Esakoff action. In turn, Plaintiff Continental is not entitled to equitable contribution from Penn National for any amounts it paid in connection with the settlement of the Esakoff action. Accordingly, I will grant judgment in favor of Defendant and against Plaintiff.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UNINSURED MOTORIST BENEFITS-NOTIFICATION TO POLICE
Calestini v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 70777 (M.D. Pa. April 13, 2021) (Saporito, J.) It is undisputed that neither the plaintiff nor the owner or operator of the vehicle notified the police or other governmental authority within thirty days of the accident.
We are asked to decide whether an injured-insured may pursue an uninsured motorist benefits claim against his automobile insurance carrier where he notified the carrier within thirty days of an accident involving an unidentified vehicle, but notified the police more than 30 days after the accident.
Although the statutory definition clearly requires notice to the police or proper governmental authority, it does not detail a consequence for untimely notice to the police.
Here, notice was timely given to State Farm and notice was given to the police, albeit beyond the 30-day notice requirement. Thus, we find that a genuine dispute exists as to whether the plaintiff’s notice of the accident to the Middletown Police Department was made “as soon as practicable” after the 30-day notice requirement.
On this basis, State Farm’s motion was denied.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UIM COVERAGE-WRITING-FORM
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UIM COVERAGE-WRITING-FORM- Gibson v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, No. 20-1589 (3d Cir. 2021) (Pratter, D.J.) Underinsured motor vehicle coverage (“UIM”) is designed to help defray the cost of an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist. Although basic UIM coverage is for an amount equal to bodily injury limits set in the policy, an insured in Pennsylvania can reduce premium costs by opting for a lower amount of underinsured motorist coverage. To accomplish that, Pennsylvania law requires only that the insured make a “request in writing.” 75 Pa. C.S. § 1734. The statute says little beyond that. But that silence speaks volumes. As we reiterate today, the statute means what it says: an insured can make that choice “in writing” in any writing as long as the choice is clear.
The question here is whether Eileen Gibson’s three-page application for insurance with State Farm in which she opted for $100,000 in stacked UIM coverage for three cars and $250,000 in bodily injury coverage was sufficient to satisfy § 1734. At the time she signed the application, she did not also then sign an additional form acknowledging the lower coverage selection, a form which State Farm categorized as “required.” She eventually signed this form and confirmed the chosen lower UIM coverage amount, but she did not actually sign this other paperwork until after she had been injured in a car accident. Because we find that § 1734’s minimal requirement of a “request in writing” was met here, we will reverse the Magistrate Judge’s Order insofar as it granted the Gibsons’ motion to mold the verdict to the higher amount of the bodily injury coverage instead of the lower optional $300,000 UIM coverage limits. But we will affirm the Order which denied the Gibsons’ motion for reconsideration of the dismissal of their bad faith claim.
The Gibsons previously had a GEICO auto insurance policy for $300,000 limits in stacked bodily injury coverage and $300,000 limits for underinsured motorist coverage. In late April 2016, Ms. Gibson signed a State Farm insurance application for bodily injury coverage of $250,000 but maintained $100,000 in stacked UIM coverage. Because the Gibsons insured three cars and the UIM insurance is “stacked,” the total UIM coverage provided for in the application was $300,000. The State Farm agent presented Ms. Gibson with a three-page application at that time, and the third page included a signature block below language attesting that “the limits and coverages [in the application] were selected by me.” Ms. Gibson signed the application, and the policy was issued effective April 22, 2016.
The last page of the pre-printed application referenced other documents, listed as “required” documents, including an acknowledgement of coverage selection form for UIM which again listed UIM coverage of $300,000. State Farm did not provide these additional forms to Ms. Gibson when she applied for insurance in April.
Ms. Gibson signed the three-page application which clearly set forth the lower UM/UIM coverage limit. Section 1734 requires nothing more for a valid election for reduced coverage.
We can appreciate the Magistrate Judge’s sense that State Farm could perhaps have been more dedicated to the highest standards of clarity. But focusing on what is important here, we do not find the amount of UIM/UM coverage the Gibsons selected to itself be ambiguous.
For these reasons, we will reverse the Magistrate Judge’s Order granting the Gibsons’ motion to mold the verdict to $750,000.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UIM COVERAGE-HOUSEHOLD EXCLUSION-WAIVER-INTERCOMPANY STACKING
Bubonovich v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co., 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41027 (W.D. Pa. March 4, 2021). Woman recovered from tortfeasor and from her own insurance she received underinsurance. She lived with her son, who had one car but he had executed a waiver of stacking. As such, in signing the stacking waiver one can reasonably infer that the plaintiff’s son knew that he was signing an inter-policy waiver, rather than an intra-policy waiver. Therefore, under the Craley v. State Farm, 895 A.2d 530 (2006) decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, there is no coverage and summary judgment properly granted for the insurance company, State Farm.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-TEMPORARY SUBSTITUTE CAR
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Dabbene, 2021 U.S. Cist. LEXIS 851 (January 5, 2021) (Beetlestone, J.) A car constitutes a “temporary substitute car” under the policy when two conditions are satisfied. First, the car must “replace your car for a short time while your car is out of use.” Second, “neither you nor the person operating it own or have registered” the vehicle. The policy defines the terms “you” and “your” to mean not only the named insured, but also to “include the spouse of the first person shown as a named insured if the spouse resides primarily with that named insured.” Because Moore is the first, and only, person shown as a named insured on the State Farm policy, the policy’s definition of “you” and “your” includes not only Moore but also her resident spouse, Gambone. And because a “temporary substitute car” cannot be owned by “you,” as that term is defined in the policy, a car owned by either Moore or Gambone would not constitute a temporary substitute car. The Cadillac was owned by Gambone at the time of the accident; thus, it was not a temporary substitute car. The State Farm policy clearly and unambiguously precludes liability coverage for the Cadillac.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY CLAUSE-UIM COVERAGE-FORUM SELECTION PROVISIONS
Matthews v. Erie Ins. Group, 2021 Pa. Super. LEXIS 13 (January 12, 2021) (Bender, P.J.E.) This case presents the question of whether reformation of the contract to provide for UIM coverage must also include the forum selection provisions which would have accompanied such coverage in the absence of a waiver. The trial court’s order was affirmed, which sustained Erie’s preliminary objections to venue transferring the matter from the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County to the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County. Here, appellant seeks to have his cake and eat it too. He wants UIM coverage, but wants to avoid the forum selection requirement that would have accompanied such coverage in the absence of an invalid waiver. The court also complained about inconsistent rulings. The case was properly transferred.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UM COVERAGE WAIVER-HOUSEHOLD EXCLUSION
Erie Insurance Exchange v. Labar, 2021 Pa. Super. LEXIS 47 (February 5, 2021) (King, J.) Labar appealed from an order granting motion for judgment on the pleadings by Erie Insurance. Superior Court affirmed. King was operating a Peterbilt Truck. Labar was a passenger. The Peterbilt was hit head-on by Ramirez. Ramirez did not have insurance. King was not personally listed as an insured under the Sentry Select policy, but rather the corporation he worked for was named. King, the truck driver, and the guest passenger’s aunt shared an automobile insurance policy with Erie for a personal vehicle. Initially, a UM benefits claim was made against the Sentry Select policy. Once those benefits were exhausted, they made a UM claim against the Erie policy. The Erie policy included a stacking waiver, which was executed by King in exchange for lower premiums. Erie filed a complaint for declaratory judgment. Erie relied upon the household exclusion and stacking benefits. The court found that the stacking exclusion issue was irrelevant in this case since the injured party was not an insured under that policy. The court also found that the household exclusion applied. The court agreed with the appellant’s (Labar’s) position that King’s execution of the stacking waiver does not bar the recovery from Erie. The court relied upon Generette. However, the court did find that notwithstanding Gallagher, the household exclusion did apply. Appellants were barred from coverage under the household exclusion and Erie was entitled to judgment on the pleadings. Appellants Labar did not dispute that they qualified as “anyone we protect” under the exclusion or that they were occupying a motor vehicle at the time of the accident that was not insured for UIM coverage under the policy. Thus, to the extent the household exclusion applies, appellants challenged its applicability only to appellant Labar because neither she nor her relative was driving the vehicle involved in the accident. Nevertheless, the definition of “you” makes it clear that it includes the “named insured” on the declaration page of the policy.
INSURANCE-JOINT UNDERWRITING ASSOCIATION
Pennsylvania Professional Liability Joint Underwriting Association v. Wolf, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 240178 (December 22, 2020) (Conner, U.S.D.J.) For more than four years, the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has had the Pennsylvania Professional Liability Joint Underwriting Association (“Joint Underwriting Association” or “Association”) in its sights. We have now twice declared unconstitutional the General Assembly’s attempts to take the Association’s assets as violative of the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause. Both times, we reasoned that the Association’s statutory origin and public purpose do not give the Commonwealth carte blanche over the Association’s private property.
The General Assembly has now tried a different tack, one it describes as “giving” rather than “taking.” Act 15 of 2019 purports to fund the Association’s operating budget with state appropriations and resource it with state attorneys and office space in exchange for the Association’s compliance with various oversight and accountability statutes. See Act of June 28, 2019, P.L. 101, No. 15, § 7 (“Act 15” or “the Act”). The Association resists these measures, seeking a declaration that Act 15 is unconstitutional in toto and a permanent injunction against its enforcement. We conclude that certain aspects of Act 15—specifically, its attempt to force the Association to operate using Commonwealth funding and to litigate using Commonwealth lawyers—once more transgress the United States Constitution. The balance of the Act, however, is an appropriate exercise of state authority over a private entity charged with carrying out a critical public-health mission. We will accordingly grant in part and deny in part the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment.
When it chose to meet its public-health objectives through a private, nonprofit association “in which the state is not alone or, indeed, at all interested, and over which the state retains virtually no control,” the General Assembly relinquished any sovereign claim to the Association or its assets. Id. at 341. The consequence of that choice is that the General Assembly may not interfere with the Association’s control of its private funds, and Act 15’s attempt to do so in Sections 1502-B and 1503-B is an unconstitutional regulatory taking. Accordingly, we will grant the Association’s motion for summary judgment and declaratory judgment with respect to Count II.
Compelling the Joint Underwriting Association to accept Commonwealth representation effectively vitiates its First Amendment right to consult with and hire civil counsel of its choice. Defendants have offered no meaningful argument to the contrary, other than their claim that this constitutional right does not exist. We find that it does, and that Section 1505-B(1) of Act 15 violates it. We will grant summary and declaratory judgment to the Association on Count IV.
Defendants have articulated “a legitimate state interest” in overseeing the Association and ensuring its success, and that interest is “rationally furthered” by Act 15. See id. at 365. Accordingly, the Association has failed to establish a substantive-due-process violation, and defendants are entitled to summary judgment on Count I.
Governor Wolf contends that he “solely signed Act 15 into law” and has no other connection to the Association’s claims or to the Act. (See Doc. 48 at 16-18). As before, we disagree. See JUA I, 2017 WL 5625722, at *7. Governor Wolf did sign Act 15 into law. But he is also authorized under Act 15 to initiate a budget-estimate request under Section 1503-B(a) upon which appropriations under Section 1502-B would be determined. See Act 15, § 1503-B. Additionally, the Attorneys Act contemplates scenarios in which the Governor’s attorney, the Office of General Counsel, would either represent the Association or determine who should. See 71 PA. STAT. AND CONS. STAT. ANN. § 732-204(c). Governor Wolf is not so attenuated from Act 15’s problematic provisions as his counsel suggests. We thus decline to apply legislative immunity.
Defendants, for their part, have articulated no reciprocal harm to the Commonwealth or the public from enjoining enforcement of the unconstitutional components of Act 15. Nor have they alleged a public interest in enforcing those sections; rather, their public-interest arguments focus almost entirely on defending the oversight provisions that we have already held survive constitutional scrutiny. We find that defendants will not be harmed by a permanent injunction narrowly tailored to the unconstitutional provisions of Act 15, nor will the public interest be disserved thereby. We will thus grant the Association’s request for a permanent injunction only to the extent that we will enjoin enforcement of Sections 1502-B, 1503-B, and 1505-B(1).
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UIM COVERAGE-WAIVER-STACKING-AFTER AQUIRED VEHICLE CLAUSE
LM General Insurance Co. v. LeBrun, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 244364 (December 30, 2020) (Marston, D.J.) The court certified this matter as a controlling question of law for the Third Circuit. Whether the addition of a fourth vehicle was added via an endorsement or continuous or finite after-acquired vehicle clause to determine whether the insurance company was required to obtain a new stacking waiver is the issue. The case law is divided. Courts look at whether the endorsement is a continuous after-acquired vehicle clause or a finite after-acquired vehicle clause. The Bumbarger line of cases, which is Pennsylvania Superior Court, found that vehicles added by endorsement meant insurers were required to obtain new forms, but the Seiple line of cases, federal court cases, found that where the vehicles were added by continuous after-acquired vehicle clause the insurance company was not required to obtain new waiver forms. See also, Romano v. Liberty Mutual Holding Insurance Company, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3079 (Saprito, Magistrate). New vehicle added to policy, but an anti-stacking waiver was not executed with respect to new vehicle. Defendant was required to obtain new UIM stacking waivers when Romano added a vehicle to policy simultaneously with the purchase of the car. The court relied upon Bumbarger.
INSURANCE-BAD FAITH-UIM COVERAGE-STANDARD
Fertig v. Kelly, No. 116 CV 4801 (C.P. Lackawanna November 5, 2020) (Nealon, J.). Plaintiff, who contends that she was injured in an automobile accident, has filed this action seeking compensatory damages from the tortfeasor and underinsured motorist (“UIM”) benefits from her own insurer, and also asserting a bad faith claim against the UIM insurer pursuant to 42 Pa.C.S. § 8371. In support of her bad faith claim, plaintiff alleges that the UIM insurer had a duty to pay UIM benefits “that were reasonably due,” but “failed to promptly offer payment of the reasonable and fair value” of her claim. The record reflects that the UIM insurer promptly addressed and resolved an issue regarding the timing of the named insured’s execution of her limited tort coverage election form under 75 Pa.C.S. § 1705, and reformed the insurance policy to afford full tort coverage to plaintiff. Once plaintiff presented a demand for UIM benefits 14 months after the UIM insurer had granted her full tort status, the UIM insurer denied plaintiff’s claim on the ground that the tortfeasor’s liability insurance coverage of $100,000.00 was sufficient to compensate plaintiff for her alleged injuries. After plaintiff later settled her liability claim against the tortfeasor for $57,500.00, the UIM insurer filed a motion for partial summary judgment with regard to plaintiff’s statutory bad faith claim.
To recover damages for bad faith under 42 Pa.C.S. § 8371, plaintiff must demonstrate, by clear and convincing evidence, that the UIM insurer (1) did not have a reasonable basis for denying UIM benefits to her and (2) knew or recklessly disregarded its lack of a reasonable basis in denying her UIM claim. The first prong of the bad faith test involves an objective inquiry into whether a reasonable insurer would have denied payment of the claim under the facts and circumstances presented. Proof of the insurer’s knowledge or reckless disregard of its lack of a reasonable basis in denying the claim satisfies the second element of the bad faith standard.
Even when the summary judgment record is viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff, it does not contain sufficient evidence that the UIM insurer lacked a reasonable basis for declining to pay UIM benefits to plaintiff, and that it knew or recklessly disregarded its want of a reasonable basis for denying her claim. A dispute between an insurer and a claimant regarding the value of a UIM claim is not uncommon, and, standing alone, does not create a triable issue of fact as to the insurer’s bad faith. The record submitted for review not only supports an objective conclusion that a reasonable insurer would have denied plaintiff’s UIM claim on the basis that her damages do not exceed $100,000.00, as evidence by her voluntary tort settlement of $57,500.00, but it is devoid of any evidence that the UIM insurer knew or recklessly disregarded its alleged lack of a reasonable basis for denying plaintiff’s claim for UIM benefits. Accordingly, while plaintiff may still pursue her claim for UIM benefits, subject to an offset ofr the tortfeasor’s liability coverage limit of $100,000.00, the UIM insurer’s motion for partial summary judgment relative to plaintiff’s bad faith claim will be granted.
Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association Insurance Co. v. Johnson Matthey, 2020 Pa. Cmwlth. LEXIS 734 (November 19, 2020) (Brobson, J.) Presently before the Court are cross-applications for partial summary relief in this insurance coverage dispute between Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association Insurance Company (PMA), as insurer, and Johnson Matthey, Inc. (Johnson Matthey), as insured. PMA seeks a judicial determination that its duty to defend Johnson Matthey did not arise until May 12, 2010, the date on which the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) filed an amended complaint in Department of Environmental Protection v. Whittaker Corporation and Johnson Matthey, Inc., (E.D. Pa., No. 08-cv-06010) (Underlying Action), naming Johnson Matthey as an additional defendant. PMA also seeks a judicial declaration that all remedial investigation (RI) and feasibility study (FS) expenses incurred by Johnson Matthey are indemnity, not defense, costs. In its application, Johnson Matthey seeks summary relief on its claims that PMA has breached its duty to defend by failing to pay in full Johnson Matthey’s counsel fees from May 31, 2015, forward. For the reasons that follow, this Court denies the cross-applications for summary relief.
We conclude that PMA’s duty to defend was triggered on May 24, 2006, when DEP notified Johnson Matthey that it had been identified as a PRP with respect to environmental contamination at the Site. We also conclude that defense costs within commercial general liability policies include any costs incurred by a party defendant to either avoid or limit liability under CERCLA and HSCA. This Court thus denies PMA’s summary relief to the extent it seeks a ruling that any expenses incurred by Johnson Matthey related to the Site prior to May 12, 2010, should not be deemed defense costs under the applicable PMA policies.
For the reasons set forth above, we deny PMA’s application for partial summary relief. In doing so, we hold that PMA’s duty to defend was triggered on May 24, 2006, when DEP notified Johnson Matthey that it had been identified as a PRP with respect to environmental contamination at the Site. We also hold that the costs incurred by Johnson Matthey through Roux under DEP’s amended consent order must be allocated between defense costs and indemnity costs (damages). Expenses primarily attributable to RI are presumed to be defense costs. The insurer or any party disadvantaged by the presumption carries the burden to show that the insured has derived an unjust benefit from such an allocation. Expenses primarily attributable to an FS are presumed to be indemnity costs. The burden is on the insured, or any party disadvantaged by the presumption, to show that the insurer has derived an unjust benefit from the allocation. Finally, we deny Johnson Matthey’s application for partial summary relief because issues of material fact remain in dispute.
This case is a good read for the relative duties in an environmental claim for indemnity, costs, attorney’s fees, etc.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UM/UIM COVERAGE-STACKING MOTORCYCLES
Erie Insurance Exchange v. Sutherland, No. 10437 of 2019, C.A. (C.P. Lawrence May 22, 2020) Motto, P.J. Before the court for disposition is the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings filed on behalf of the plaintiff, Erie Insurance Exchange, asserting Defendants are not entitled to stacked underinsured motorist coverage (hereinafter “UIM”) pursuant to the policy insuring their automobiles for injuries sustained while Mr. Sutherland was operating his motorcycle, as Mr. Sutherland waived UIM coverage in the policy insuring the motorcycle.
On May 27, 2017, defendant, Thomas L. Sutherland, was injured while operating his 2017 Indian Scout 60 motorcycle when he was struck by an underinsured motorist at the intersection of Leesburg Station road and New Castle Mercer Road in Wilmington Township, Mercer County, Pennsylvania. Mr. Sutherland’s motorcycle was insured through a policy issued by Progressive Insurance Company (hereinafter “Progressive”). He waived underinsured motorist coverage for all vehicles insured pursuant to that policy. Mr. Sutherland and his wife, Lucinda S. Sutherland, also maintained an insurance policy issued by plaintiff, which provided coverage for a 2000 Toyota Tundra and a 2012 Ford Escape. Defendants purchased underinsured motorist coverage through the Erie Insurance policy with limits of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident. Defendants did not execute a waiver of stacking for that insurance policy and paid premiums consistent with obtaining stacked coverage. However, the policy contained a household exclusion, which that insurance does not apply to the following:
- Damages sustained by “anyone we protect” while:
- “occupying” or being struck by a “motor vehicle” owned or leased by “you” or a “relative,” but not insured for Uninsured or Underinsured Motorists Coverage under this policy…
Mr. Sutherland requested Plaintiff pay UIM benefits for the injuries sustained in the motorcycle accident pursuant to the Defendant’s automobile policy, which Plaintiff rejected by letter dated June 23, 2017, stating the household exclusion applied. On March 27, 2019, Defendants requested Plaintiff reconsider its denial of UIM coverage based upon the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision in Gallagher v. Geico Indemnity Company, 201 A.3d 131 (Pa. 2019). Plaintiff refused to approve Defendants’ claim as it assumed the position Defendants were not entitled to UIM coverage concerning the motorcycle.
This case is even more compelling than the aforementioned cases as Mr. Sutherland was a named insured on both policies while the other cases included stacked coverage for a number of the named insured’s household
The Court is required to base its decision on the policy from which Defendants are seeking coverage and not any other policy Defendants may have purchased as stated in Stockdale. Thus, Mr. Sutherland’s waiver of UIM coverage in the Progressive policy cannot preclude his ability to recover in the Erie policy, as Defendants paid premiums for stacked UIM coverage. Eichelman is no longer controlling precedent in this matter following the Supreme Court’s decision in Gallagher. In fact, the Gallagher Court acknowledged it was altering the insurance industry as stated in footnote 6 of that Opinion. The Court placed the onus on the insurance providers to ensure they were aware of all the vehicles and individuals which may be covered by stacked UIM coverage. Plaintiff cannot deny coverage to Defendants merely because it was unaware the stacked UIM benefits would include Mr. Sutherland’s motorcycle or as a result of Mr. Sutherland waiving UIM benefits on the Progressive insurance policy.
Based upon the foregoing, Plaintiff’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings is denied in its entirety.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UM/UIM COVERAGE-STACKING-HOUSEHOLD EXCLUSION
Erie Insurance v. Petrie, 2020 Pa. Super. LEXIS 921 (November 18, 2020) Pellegrini, J. On October 16, 2016, Decedent, while operating a Yamaha motorcycle, was struck and killed by a truck operated by an underinsured driver. Decedent was survived by Petrie and their three children, all of whom are parties in this case. At the time of the accident, Decedent and Petrie had purchased and were named insureds on two motor vehicle insurance policies through Erie and Foremost Insurance (Foremost). The Foremost policy provided $25,000.00 in UIM coverage and Decedent’s motorcycle was insured by that company. Petrie made a successful claim for UIM benefits from Foremost. Petrie then submitted a claim for UIM benefits under the Erie policy. The Erie policy covered four vehicles and UIM coverage limits for bodily injury of “$100,000 per person/$300,000 per accident-Unstacked.”
In April 2017, Erie issued a letter denying the claim because the above stacking waiver prevents Petrie from recovering benefits from both Foremost and Erie, i.e., that provision bars inter-policy stacking. In addition, Erie also maintained that the household exclusion bars Petrie’s request for UIM benefits because, at the time of the accident, Decedent was operating a motorcycle he had insured with a different carrier and not under the Erie policy.
Accordingly, because Gallagher, 201 A.3d 131 (Pa. 2019) found the household exclusion provision inconsistent with Section 1738 of the MVFRL requirement that insureds knowingly waive stacked coverage, and Craley v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Company, 895 A.2d 530 (Pa. 2006) found the present stacking waiver provision was not sufficient for an insured to make a knowing decision to waive stacked coverage, the trial court’s grant of judgment on the pleadings is reversed and the matter is remanded to the trial court. Order reversed. Case remanded. Jurisdiction relinquished.
INSURANCE-LIFE INSURANCE-DIVORCE-CHANGE IN BENEFICIARY
State Farm v. Kitko, 2020 Pa. Super. 253 (October 20, 2020) Olson, J. Section 6111.2, a so-called revocation-on-divorce statute, deems a spouse, or former spouse, of a life insurance policyholder to have predeceased the policyholder for beneficiary purposes under the terms of the life insurance policy when the beneficiary designation occurred prior to the entry of a final divorce decree or prior to the initiation of divorce proceedings, which remain pending at the time of the policyholder’s death. 20 Pa.C.S.A. § 6111.2(a) and (b). In order words, the designation of a spouse, or former spouse, as a beneficiary under his or her spouse’s, or former spouse’s, life insurance policy is automatically revoked upon the entry of a final divorce decree or upon initiation of a divorce proceeding that is not finalized before the policyholder’s death.
The spouse, or former spouse, will not be deemed to have predeceased the policyholder and will remain a beneficiary of the policy, however, if (1) the initial beneficiary designation contains words indicating the designation is to remain effective despite subsequent issuance of a divorce degree, (2) a court orders the beneficiary designation to remain in effect after a divorce decree is issued, (3) the spouses, or former spouses, enter into a written contract, i.e. a divorce settlement agreement, in which they agree the beneficiary designation is to remain in effect after entry of a divorce decree, or (4) the policyholder makes a “designation” after the divorce decree is issued that his or her former spouse is a beneficiary. Id. at § 6111.2(b)(1-4).
While we conclude that the term “designation,” as used in Subsection 6111.2(b)(4) permits beneficiary designation by either oral or written form, we further conclude that a valid “designation” under Subsection 6111.2(b)(4) refers to a designation of a former spouse as a beneficiary of the policy after the divorce decree was issued that either strictly or substantially complies with the terms of the applicable policy. Accordingly, to resolve the dispute in the case sub judice, we must determine whether, after the divorce decree was issued, Appellant established Decedent’s strict compliance with the beneficiary designation provisions of the policy. In the alternative, we must decide whether, in accordance with Pennsylvania law, Appellant demonstrated Decedent’s substantial compliance with the policy terms in any post-divorce beneficiary re-designation. Our analysis, therefore, begins with the policy language itself.
Based upon our review of the record, we discern that Decedent, under the circumstances of this case, reasonably did all that he could have done to designate Appellant as the primary beneficiary of the policy. Decedent notified his agent about his divorce and inquired about Appellant remaining the primary beneficiary of the policy. The agent incorrectly told Decedent that no additional paperwork was necessary in order to strictly comply with the beneficiary designation provisions of the policy and that Appellant was already listed as the primary beneficiary of the policy according State Farm’s electronic records system.
Decedent, under the circumstances of the instant case, substantially complied, as a matter of law, with the policy requirements to designate Appellant as the primary beneficiary of the policy.
Consequently, we vacate the order that granted summary judgment in favor of Allen Kitko and dismissed Appellant’s statement of claim with prejudice. Further, we remand this case with the instructions that the trial court vacate its order that denied Appellant’s motion for summary judgment. Finally, we direct the trial court to enter summary judgment in favor of Appellant and to dismiss Allen Kitko’s statement of claim with prejudice.
Order vacated. Case remanded with instructions.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UIM-STACKING-GALLAGHER
National General Insurance v. Sheldon, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 178605 (W.D. Pa. September 29, 2020) Bissoon, D.J. Defendant purchased a motorcycle, insuring it with a different insurance company, Dairyland Insurance Company (“Dairyland”), although he had a preexisting automobile insurance policy (“National General Policy,”) with Plaintiff. Defendant’s policy with Plaintiff included “stackable,” Underinsured Motorist Coverage (“UIM”) of $100,000 per person for bodily injury on four vehicles, for a total of $400,000 in coverage.
At issue before this Court is whether a “household vehicle exclusion” violates Pennsylvania state law when applied to two separate insurance companies issuing two separate policies that include “stacking” UIM coverage for motor vehicles versus a motorcycle for one individual.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Gallagher determined that the “household vehicle exclusion” violates the MVFRL because the exclusion “impermissibly acts as a de fact waiver of stacked uninsured and underinsured motorist (“UM” and “UIM,” respectively) coverages.” Gallagher, 201 A.3d at 132.
At its core, Gallagher held that the household vehicle exclusion violates the MVFRL because it is an impermissible waiver of an individual’s choice to select and pay for stacked UIM benefits. To this Court, that reasoning governs no matter who furnishes those benefits, whether it is one insurance company or two. The Court simply is not persuaded by the older cases cited by Plaintiff in its case, and notes that several of those cases were explicitly abrogated by Gallagher, although not overruled, including those with facts analogous to this case. See Plaintiff’s Brief in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment at 6 (“Pl. Brief ISO,” Doc. 16), citing Erie Ins. Exchange v. Baker, 972 A.2d 507 (Pa. 2009), abrogated by Gallagher v. GEICO Indem. Co., 201 A.3d 131 (Pa. 2019). Again, had the Gallagher court intended to limit its holding with respect to “household vehicle exclusion” provisions, it need not have mentioned specifically how Baker was not binding precedent because it could have easily differentiated the facts of Gallagher by indicating that only one insurance company was involved. See Gallagher, 201 A.3d at 135 n.5. This is different from the other case cited by Plaintiff, as that one addresses a different exclusion purporting to limit UIM coverage, which the Gallagher court specifically declined to address. Pl. Opp. at 11, citing Barnhart v. Travelers Home and Marine Ins. Co., 417 F. Supp. 3d 653 (W.D. Pa. 2019). See Gallagher, 201 A. 3d at 138 n.8 (“We offer no opinion or comment on the enforceability of any other exclusion to UM or UIM coverage or to coverage in general”) (emphasis added). Plaintiff’s argument is inapposite.
Consistent with the foregoing, Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED and Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED. The Court finds that Plaintiff’s “household vehicle exclusion” in the National General Policy is invalid and unenforceable.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-LIMITED TORT-FUTURE MEDICAL CARE
Darwish v. Einspahr, 2020 Pa. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 3029 (September 24, 2020) Bowes, J. The jury answered special interrogatories finding that Mr. Einspahr was negligent, that Ms. Darwish was not negligent, and that Mr. Einspahr’s negligence was the factual cause of harm to Ms. Darwish. The jury found that Ms. Darwish did not suffer severe impairment of bodily function, but it awarded $50,000 in economic damages to compensate her for future medical expenses. It was wrong for the court to mold the verdict by subtracting the $50,000 since the $50,000 was not speculative and was properly awarded for future care even though the jury found that plaintiff did not suffer severe impairment of bodily function for a grant of damages concerning pain and suffering.
INSURANCE-BAD FAITH-FAILED REPAIRS TO A CAR
Berg v. Nationwide, No. 33 MAP 2019 (Pa. S. Ct. August 25, 2020) Wecht, J. Twenty-four years ago, Sharon Berg was involved in a collision while driving a vehicle insured by Nationwide Mutual Insurance. Although there were no injuries, the vehicle sustained extensive damage. After a botched repair job, the vehicle remained uncrashworthy. Yet Nationwide knowingly permitted its insured to continue driving this vehicle, while refusing to acknowledge what it already knew: that the repairs had failed. Sharon and her husband, Daniel Berg, eventually sued Nationwide for insurance bad faith. See 42 Pa.C.S. § 8371. After three trials and multiple appeals, the trial court made extensive factual findings and legal conclusions to support a judgment in bad faith against Nationwide. The Superior Court reversed, finding no record support for the trial court’s judgment. The Bergs appealed to this Court. Being divided in a fashion which prevents a majority disposition, this Court is dismissing the Bergs’ appeal. Because we would find ample evidentiary support for the trial court’s judgment, we would reverse the order of the Superior Court and remand to the Superior Court for consideration of Nationwide’s outstanding appellate issues.
To prove insurance bad faith, the Bergs were required to demonstrate that Nationwide lacked a reasonable basis to deny benefits under the insurance policy, and that Nationwide knew of or recklessly disregarded its lack of a reasonable basis. See Rancosky v. Washington National Insurance Company, 642 Pa. 153, 170 A.3d at 377. To this end, the Bergs were not required to prove that Nationwide was motivated by self-interest or ill will, although such evidence may be probative of the second prong. Id. And, as the Superior Court held in Berg I, and which Nationwide does not dispute, the Bergs may attempt to prove bad faith by demonstrating that the insurer violated related statutes and regulations. Berg v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co., 44 A.3d 1174 (Pa. Super. 2012) (“Berg I“).
We would agree with the trial court that the factual circumstances established above support the trial court’s judgment that Nationwide engaged in bad faith by recklessly disregarding several legal duties.
As the trial court found, Nationwide’s motive in vetoing the total loss appraisal was to save money, as repairing the Jeep would cost half as much as totaling the Jeep. Nationwide stood to benefit from the decision to repair the Jeep in part because of the cost savings it would realize from having its BRRP facility perform the repairs. In contrast, Nationwide would have to pay market value on a total loss. This conflict created a financial incentive to repair structurally impaired vehicles despite the safety concerns of the assigned appraiser.
The process established by Nationwide and implemented in this case was that the purportedly independent appraiser working at a facility participating in Nationwide’s BRRP would make an initial assessment of the vehicle and, if that assessment was that the subject vehicle was a total loss, then Nationwide would dispatch a claims representative to second guess that appraiser and ultimately make the final determination about whether to pay for a total loss or repair the vehicle.
This process was contrary to the Appraiser Act, which requires appraisers to be independent. Joffred believed himself to be working for Nationwide, not the Bergs. Nationwide apparently agreed, and unlawfully interfered with the appraiser’s independent initial opinion that the Jeep was a total structural loss due to its twisted frame. The appraiser that Nationwide contracted with and assigned to appraise the damage to the Bergs’ Jeep was not independent.
The process established through Nationwide’s BRRP and used in this case is also contrary to the regulation, which requires the independence of appraisers in order to protect consumers, 31 Pa. Code § 62.3(f)(1), bars the removal of a vehicle without the owners’ consent, id. § 62.3(f)(2), and requires the owner to be apprised of a total loss appraisal, id. § 62.3(e)(7). Nationwide and Lindgren not only failed to provide the Bergs with the initial total loss appraisal, they also directed the Jeep to be removed to K.C. Auto without the Bergs’ consent to attempt structural repairs.
Appraisers are not beholden to insurance companies. They are independently licensed and disciplined. They must be independent and provide independent appraisals. It is their duty to ensure that the vehicles are in a safe and serviceable condition. Nationwide had no reasonable basis to circumvent the independence of its assigned appraiser, and it recklessly disregarded its obligation to maintain the appraiser’s independence. Rather than deferring to the appraiser’s concern for the safety of the Bergs and the public, Nationwide instead focused upon its own self-interest and recklessly disregarded its obligation to pay for a structural total loss. As the trial court found, Witmer’s concern was purely financial, placing Nationwide’s economic concerns over the safety needs of the insured and the public. An insurer will be held to have acted in bad faith if it fails to “accord the interest of its insured the same faithful consideration it gives its own interest.” Cowden v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 134 A.2d 223, 228 (Pa. 1957). The trial court was entitled to rely upon evidence that Nationwide vetoed the total loss appraisal, and chose instead to focus on its own financial concerns at the expense of the safety of the insured and the public, in order to establish bad faith.
We would vacate the Superior Court order granting JNOV to Nationwide, affirm the trial court’s bad faith judgment, and remand to the Superior Court for consideration of Nationwide’s outstanding challenges.
INSURANCE-DEFAMATION-INTERFERENCE WITH CONTRACTUAL RELATIONS
Burns v. Cooper, 2020 Pa. Super. LEXIS 675 (August 11, 2020) Stevens, P.J.E. Appellant Blakeley Cooper appealed from a judgment in favor of Jamiylah Burns in a case for defamation and tortious interference with contract. The Superior Court affirmed the verdict. Appellant Cooper filed a divorce complaint against Burns. While the divorce matter was pending, someone smashed the car window and stole Burns’ valuables. An investigation began. The claim for the lost possessions was handled by Erie. Burns claimed that Cooper made false statements to Erie indicating that Cooper filed a fraudulent insurance claim. The jury answered “yes” as to the question of whether Burns was liable to Cooper for defamation, and answered “yes” as to the tortious interference with contract claim. This appeal followed. The court sustained the verdict. The jury could reasonably find that the defamatory meaning of appellant’s statements were understood by Erie representatives. The defamation verdict was supported. The jury could reasonably find that Cooper suffered actual damage as the result of a defamatory statement even though Erie eventually paid out the insurance claim. The evidence supported the jury’s verdict that Cooper sustained actual damage from the defamatory statement as is necessary for tortious interference with contract claim. There were attorney’s fees involved and other expenses incurred by Cooper to protect herself because of the allegations.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UIM COVERAGE-WAIVER-NEW STACKING FORM
Franks v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, 2020 Pa. Super. LEXIS 641 (July 31, 2020) McCaffery, J. Robert and Kelly A. Franks (Appellants) appeal from the declaratory judgment entered in the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas, granting relief in favor of State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (State Farm). Appellants contend the trial court erred when it determined State Farm was not required to obtain a new stacking waiver of underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage when Appellants removed a vehicle from their existing policy. Because we conclude the removal of a vehicle from a multi-vehicle policy changes the stacked amount of UIM coverage, we agree a new stacking waiver was required under Section 1738(c) of the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL). Thus, we reverse the declaratory judgment in favor of State Farm and remand for further proceedings. Thus, we hold Section 1738(c) requires a new stacking waiver whenever the stacked amount of UIM coverage changes — regardless of whether the change is an increase or decrease in the amount of stacked coverage. This interpretation complies with our stated policy of construing the statute “liberally in favor of the insured” so as to “afford[ ] the injured claimant the greatest possible coverage.” See Jones, 40 A.3d at 127. Accordingly, in the present case, Appellants are entitled to stacked UIM coverage in the amount of $200,000. Consequently, we reverse the declaratory judgment entered in favor of State Farm, and remand for the entry of judgment in favor of Appellants. Judgment reversed. Case remanded for further proceedings. Jurisdiction relinquished.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UMBRELLA COVERAGE-UIM BENEFITS
Jones v. Amica Mutual Insurance Co., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 128145 (E.D. Pa. July 21, 2020) Brody, J. Plaintiff argued that under the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law, Amica was required to offer Jones the opportunity to include UIM benefits in an umbrella policy. The only change under § 1731 of the MVFRL is that UIM coverage is now optional instead of mandatory in motor vehicle insurance policies. This amendment does not impact the conclusion reached in other cases that the MVFRL does not apply to excess or umbrella policies. Since the 1990 amendment, the courts have continued to routinely hold that the MVFRL does not apply to excess or umbrella policies. Because the MVFRL does not apply to Jones’ umbrella policy that explicitly excluded UIM coverage, Jones cannot succeed under a claim for UIM benefits under the umbrella policy.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UNDERINSURANCE MOTORIST COVERAGE-EXHAUSTION REQUIREMENT
Cambridge v. Allstate, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 126094 (E.D. Pa. July 17, 2020) Baylson, J. Pennsylvania law clearly permits an underlying third-party negligence action and a separate underinsurance motorist claim to exist in separate courts. Defendant maintains that plaintiff’s underinsurance motorist claim is unripe for adjudication because plaintiff currently has a third-party negligence action pending in state court. Defendant references an exhaustion clause in plaintiff’s insurance policy. However, the Pennsylvania Superior Court has repeatedly held that plaintiffs may pursue underinsurance motorist claims against the insurance carriers while third-party tort suits are pending in spite of the existence of contractual exhaustion provisions.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UNDERINSURANCE-HOUSEHOLD EXCLUSION
Stockdale v. Allstate Fire and Casualty Insurance, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 33406 (E.D. Pa. February 27, 2020) Beetlestone, J. This case addressed the scope of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision in Gallagher v. GEICO Indemnity Co., 201 A.3d 131 (Pa. 2019). Specifically, it addressed the extent to which Gallagher found the “household exclusion” inconsistent with the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law’s (“MVFRL”), 75 Pa. C.S.A. §§ 1701 et seq., requirement that insureds knowingly waive stacked coverage. Defendant argues that Gallagher should be read narrowly; should not be understood as invalidating the exclusion entirely; and does not apply in this case. Plaintiff argues that Gallagher should be read broadly and does apply in this case. Because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court invalidated the household vehicle exclusion in all personal auto insurance policies in which such an exclusion operates as a de facto waiver of stacked coverage, Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment will be denied and Plaintiff’s Partial Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted. Plaintiff, Kayla Stockdale, is a Pennsylvania resident who, at all times relevant here, resided with her parents, Mark and Jacqueline Sanders. Both Stockdale and her parents held car insurance policies with Defendant, Allstate Fire and Casualty Insurance Company.
Stockdale’s policy (the “Stockdale Policy”) provided $25,000 in uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage for her one vehicle, while her parents’ policy (the “Sanders Policy”) provided $100,000 in uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage for each of their three vehicles. The Sanders also paid to “stack” their underinsured motorist coverage, meaning the Sanders elected to combine the insurance coverage of individual vehicles within their policy (“intra-policy stacking”) and across policies (“inter-policy stacking”) to increase the amount of total coverage available; Stockdale did not.
On June 10, 2017, while riding as a passenger in her vehicle, Stockdale was injured in a collision with another driver, Ronald Pagliei. Her injuries as a result of the accident were permanent and severe, and she sought recovery for those injuries. Stockdale first made a claim against Pagliei. With the approval of Allstate, she settled that claim for $100,000, the limit of liability coverage under Pagliei’s policy. Stockdale also made a claim for underinsured motorist coverage under the Stockdale Policy. Allstate approved the claim and provided her with $25,000, the limit of underinsured motorist coverage under the Stockdale Policy.
The combined recovery, however, was insufficient to meet Stockdale’s medical needs. Accordingly, on February 7, 2018, Stockdale made a claim under the Sanders Policy for underinsured motorist coverage, on the basis that the Sanders Policy provided that Allstate “will pay damages to an insured person for bodily injury which an insured person is legally entitled to recover,” and defined “insured person” to include “any resident relative” of the policyholders, Mark and Jacqueline Sanders. Because she lived with her parents at the time of the accident, Plaintiff claimed she was eligible to stack the underinsured coverage provided in the Sanders Policy with the underinsured coverage provided in the Stockdale Policy.
On February 14, 2018, Allstate denied the claim. It premised the denial on a provision of the Sanders Policy called the “household exclusion”.
Because she was not riding in one of the three vehicles covered by the Sanders Policy, Allstate claimed that the household exclusion rendered Plaintiff ineligible to stack coverage across the Sanders and Stockdale Policies. Plaintiff subsequently filed her Complaint, bringing claims for individual and class relief and seeking $300,000 in underinsured benefits under the Sanders policy.
Here, it is undisputed that Stockdale is making a claim under the Sanders Policy and that she was an insured under that policy. Because it is also undisputed that the Sanders did not waive stacked coverage, and because a household exclusion “cannot operate as a pretext to avoid stacking” or a “de facto waiver” of stacked coverage, the household exclusion in the Sanders Policy is “unenforceable as a matter of law.” See Gallagher, 201 A.3d at 138.
Because Gallagher is controlling in this case, Allstate’s Motion for Summary Judgment shall be denied, and Stockdale’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment shall be granted. Allstate shall be required to pay the $300,000 in stacked coverage available to Stockdale under the Sanders Policy.
INSURANCE-COMMERCIAL INSURANCE-SNOW AND ICE REMOVAL
Selective Way Insurance v. MAK Services, 2020 Pa. Super. LEXIS 342 (April 24, 2020) Bowes, J. This case involved an exclusion for snow and ice. Somebody fell on the insured’s property and a lawsuit followed. There was a Reservation of Rights letter. Pennsylvania law does not require an insured company to list every potential defense to coverage in its Reservation of Rights letter. However, a small body of recent case law discussing this precise issue suggests that some level of specificity is necessary. The lack of specificity in the letter speaks of deficient investigation. Snow and ice removal exclusion was evident on the face of the policy. The insurance company knew of the exclusion from the onset. In spite of this, the insurance company waited 18 months to raise the exclusion and provided no further intervening notice to the insured that it might have to mount a defense to the civil action on its own. Under these facts, Selective Way failed to conduct and adequate investigation and summary judgment in their favor was reversed by the Superior Court.
INSURANCE-FINACIAL RESPONSIBLITY LAW-UNDERINSURANCE-EXLUSION-VEHICLE STACKING
Dunleavy v. Mid-Century Ins. Co., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 88024 (W.D. Pa. May 19, 2020) Ranjan, J. This was a motorcycle accident. The insurance company denied coverage under the “household vehicle exclusion”. Claimant cited Gallagher v. GEICO Indemnity, 201 A.3d 131 (2019). Household vehicle exclusions cannot be used to work as a de facto waiver of stacked insurance motorist coverage. The insurance company argues that Gallagher is irrelevant. In this case, the insured waived underinsurance for his motorcycle, which was covered by a separate policy issued by a separate insurer. The insurance company argument, therefore, was that plaintiff is not trying to stack the insurance policy on anything. Rather, plaintiffs are attempting to use the insurance to establish underinsured motorist coverage in the first instance. The court dismissed plaintiff’s case and all allegations.
INSURANCE-BAD FAITH-UNFAIR TRADE PRACTICES AND CONSUMER PROTECTION LAW
Wenk v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Company, 2020 Pa. Super. LEXIS 86 (February 7, 2020) Shogan, J. This case dealt with many issues but upheld a verdict that the UTPCPL does not apply to the alleged bad faith handling of an insurance claim. The UTPCPL applies to consumer transactions, which are statutorily defined. The handling of an insurance claim does not meet the statutory definition. The Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s discretionary finding that the insured failed to prove reckless or intentional misconduct by the insurance company that would warrant additional statutory relief. There was no finding for bad faith either.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UM/UIM COVERAGE-STACKING-HOUSEHOLD EXCLUSION
Kline v. Travelers Personal Security Insurance Company, 2019 Pa. Super. LEXIS 1157 (November 18, 2019) Gantman, P.J.E. Appellant Kline obtained insurance with Travelers in August 2002. He selected uninsured motorist benefits and underinsurance in the amount of $50,000 each person/$100,000 each accident. He rejected stacked UIM coverage by signing a rejection of stacking waiver form. The policy covered one vehicle at its inception, a1999 Pontiac Grand Prix. The 1999 Pontiac Grand Prix was later replaced by a 2002 Pontiac Firebird. On June 6, 2007, Kline added a 2001 Pontiac Montana. Now he had two vehicles. Travelers did not present Kline with a new stacking rejection form when the 2001 Pontiac Montana was added. The Pontiac Montana was later replaced by a 2008 Chevrolet Uplander. Kline, in 2011, added a third vehicle to the policy. Travelers again did not present a new stacking rejection form. In 2012, Kline was involved in a motor vehicle accident while operating one of his cars. He asserted a UIM claim under the policy, and Travelers tendered the non-stacked UIM coverage limits of $50,000. Kline resided with his mother, Miriam Kline, who insured a Chevrolet Cruz with Travelers under a different policy. Miriam Kline had stacked UIM coverage on her policy in the amount of $100,000 each person, $300,000 each accident. Miriam Kline’s policy contained a “household vehicle exclusion”, which would have excluded her son from coverage. The court ruled that each time Mr. Kline entered a car, he was entitled to obtain a new rejection form.
This Court has held an insurer must offer an insured the opportunity to execute a new waiver of stacked UM/UIM coverage when the insured adds another automobile to an existing policy. Pergolese v. Standard Fire Insurance Co., 162 A.3d 481, 490 (Pa.Super. 2017), appeal denied, 643 Pa. 113, 172 A.2d 590 (2017). The addition of another vehicle to an existing policy constitutes a purchase under Section 1738(c). Id. (explaining: addition of vehicle, which is not replacement vehicle, to insurance policy constitutes “purchase” for Section 1738 purposes and requires execution of new UM/UIM stacking waiver). Accord Bumbarger v. Peerless Indem. Ins. Co., 93 A.3d 872, 879 (Pa.Super. 2014) (en banc) (stating: addition of vehicle to existing insurance policy compels new execution of valid UM/UIM stacking waiver; even if after-acquired automobile clause applied, new stacking waiver would still be required for addition of vehicle to policy, where after-acquired automobile clause in policy makes clear distinction between “the burden placed on an insured to ‘add-on’ a vehicle versus ‘replace’ a vehicle under an existing insurance policy. While the former requires notice to the insurer, the latter does not as the policy extends coverage automatically for replacement vehicles”). An insurer’s failure to provide an insured with a new UM/UIM stacking waiver form when required statutorily entitles the insured to the default of stacked UM/UIM benefits under the policy. Id. at 879; Pergolese, supra at 491.
In addition, due to the decision in Gallagher v. GEICO, 201 A.3d 131 (2019), the household’s exclusion is what is against public policy. Passarello v. Grumbine, 87 A.3d 285 (2014) addresses the retroactive effect of the opinion and dictates that Gallagher should apply.
Based upon the foregoing, we vacate the December 18, 2018 order in its entirety and remand for the trial court to enter an amended order granting summary judgment in favor of Appellant/Cross-Appellee Kline on his right to claim stacked UIM coverage under his Policy and under Ms. Kline’s separate automobile insurance policy but without any award of money damages, which are still to be determined.
INSURANCE-FIRST PARTY BENEFITS-INDEPENDENT MEDICAL EXAM
Sayles v. Allstate Insurance Company, 2019 Pa. LEXIS 6483 (November 20, 2019) Todd, J. In these consolidated matters, we answer a certified question from the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit: Does an automobile insurance policy provision, which requires an insured seeking first-party medical benefits under the policy to submit to an independent medical exam whenever the insurer requires and with a [J-49AB-2019] – 2 doctor selected by the insurer, conflict with 75 Pa.C.S. § 1796(a) of the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (“MVFRL”), such that the requirement is void as against public policy? After review, we conclude that the provision conflicts with Section 1796(a), and is void as against public policy.
In sum, then, these IME policy provisions manifestly conflict with, and are repugnant to, the statutory protections for individuals insured under automobile insurance policies regarding the conduct of IMEs as established by the General Assembly in Section 1796(a); consequently, they are void as against the public policy of this Commonwealth. We therefore answer the certified question from the Third Circuit in the affirmative. The matter is returned to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Chief Justice Saylor and Justices Baer, Donohue, Dougherty and Mundy join the opinion.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UIM-EXCLUSION-“REGULAR USE”
Barnhart v. Travelers Home & Marine Insurance Company, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 186232 (W.D. Pa. October 28, 2019) Horan, J. Barnhart injured while a passenger on a motorcycle operated by her husband. It was insured through Progressive. She (the passenger) recovered liability limits against the tortfeasor policy. She then sought UIM benefits under Travelers automobile policy. She and her husband had two vehicles insured by Travelers. Travelers denied Barnhart’s claim for UIM benefits based upon the “regular use exclusion” contained within Barnhart’s policy. The exception denies coverage for UIM benefits when a person is “occupying” or struck by any motor vehicle that they own when that is furnished or available for regular use which is not named for coverage under the policy. The court granted Travelers’ motion to dismiss and ruled inapplicable Gallagher v. GEICO, 201 A.3d 131 (Pa. 2019), holding that “household exclusion” used to preclude stacking of underinsurance is unenforceable.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UIM COVERAGE-RELEASES
Lane v. USAA General Indemnity Company, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 181197 (E.D. Pa. October 21, 2019) Surrick, J. A release with tortfeasor does not let the underinsured carrier off the hook. A release does not preclude plaintiff from pursuing an action for UIM benefits because the executed general release did not contain language unequivocally discharging defendant from its contractual obligation to provide UIM benefits to plaintiff. General release cases such as Buttermore v. Aliquippa Hospital, 561 A.2d 733 (Pa. 1989) are distinguished.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-MEDICAL EXPENSES-COST CONTAINMENT PROVISION
Farese v. Robinson, 2019 Pa. Super. LEXIS 1118 (November 8, 2019) Colins, J. Superior Court considered whether a jury’s award for future medical expenses should be molded pursuant to the cost containment provision of the MVFRL. That law, which is Section 1797(a), provides that medical bills should be paid in excess of 110% of what Medicare would pay for comparable services. The court, in looking at the cases, discovered that every court that has looked at it has decided that such is not required.
INSURANCE-COMMERCIAL POLICY-PRODUCTS DEFECT
Sapa Extrusions, Inc. v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 27668 (3d Cir. September 13, 2019) Porter, C.J. Two policies—the Liberty Mutual Policies—contain the Injurious Exposure Definition of “occurrence.” As noted above, this definition is identical to the Expected/Intended Definition, except that it uses the term “injurious exposure” instead of “accident.” The District Court did not analyze these policies separately, despite their unique wording. As a result, as with the seven policies containing the Expected/Intended Definition, and for many of the same reasons, we will vacate the District Court’s decision as it relates to these two policies and remand for further individualized consideration consistent with this opinion.
To sum up, the rule we reemphasize here is simple: in Pennsylvania, insurance policies must be interpreted and applied in accordance with their plain language and relevant Pennsylvania law. We believe that this rule best allows the parties to an insurance policy to structure their contractual relationship as they see fit.
As explained above, for the nineteen policies that contain the Accident Definition of “occurrence,” under Kvaerner, CPB, and Specialty Surfaces, Marvin’s allegations—which, at their core, are solely for faulty workmanship—do not trigger coverage. We will thus affirm the District Court’s decision as it relates to these policies.
For the seven policies that contain the Expected/Intended Definition of “occurrence,” we hold that the Insured’s Intent Clause triggers the subjective-intent standard from Elitzky. We will vacate the District Court’s decision as it relates to these policies and remand for further consideration consistent with this opinion.
And for the two policies that contain the Injurious Exposure Definition of “occurrence,” since they also include the Insured’s Intent Clause, we will vacate the District Court’s decision and remand for further consideration consistent with this opinion.
To be clear, we take no position on whether Sapa may ultimately recover under any of the policies we are remanding to the District Court for more consideration. Given the extensive record and the amount in controversy, the parties should be afforded the opportunity to develop their coverage 29 arguments, including various theories of triggering conditions, under those policies before the District Court in the first instance.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UNLISTED RESIDENT DRIVER EXCLUSION-PUBLIC POLICY
Safe Auto v. Rene Oriental-Guillermo, Rachel Dixon, Priscila Jimenez, Luis Jimenez, Alli Licona Avila and Iris Velazquez, Appeal of: Priscilla Jimenez and Luis Jimenez, No. 26 MAP 2018 (August 20, 2019). JUSTICE TODD
On April 29, 2013, Rachel Dixon was driving a car owned by her boyfriend, Rene Oriental-Guillermo (“Policyholder”), when she was involved in an accident with a vehicle in which Priscilla Jimenez was a passenger, and which was owned by Iris Velazquez, and operated by Alli Licona-Avila. At the time of the accident, Dixon resided with Policyholder, who had purchased a personal automobile insurance policy (“Policy”) for his vehicle through Safe Auto Insurance Company (“Safe Auto”). The Policy contains a URDE, which excludes from coverage any individuals who live with, but are not related to, the policyholder, and whom the policyholder does not specifically list as an additional driver on the insurance policy.
The Policy contains clear and unambiguous URDE, which excludes coverage for injury or property damage that occurred while Policyholder’s vehicle was operated by a resident of his household or by a regular use of his covered vehicle, unless that person is listed as an additional driver on the Declarations Page. Although Policyholder did not dispute he was aware of this exclusion, he permitted his vehicle to be operated by his live-in girlfriend, who, under the express terms of the URDE, was not covered by the Policy. Policyholder had the option of adding his girlfriend to the Policy, but chose not to do so. Undoubtedly, this choice resulted in reduced insurance premiums, and, as we previously have stated, an insured is not entitled to receive gratis coverage. Moreover, in the absence of provisions in the MVFRL to the contrary, insurers are not compelled to underwrite unknown and uncompensated risks. Thus, we decline to hold that the URDE in this case is contrary to public policy.
For all the foregoing reasons, we affirm the order of the Superior Court.
FALSE CLAIMS ACT-STARK ACT-MEDICARE PAYMENTS
FALSE CLAIMS ACT—STARK ACT—MEDICARE PAYMENTS – U.S. v. UPMC, et al., 3rd Cir. No. 18-1693 (September 17, 2019).
BIBAS, Circuit Judge. Healthcare spending is a huge chunk of the federal budget. Medicare and Medicaid cost roughly a trillion dollars per year. And with trillions of dollars comes the temptation for fraud. Fraud is a particular danger because doctors and hospitals can make lots of money for one another. When doctors refer patients to hospitals for services, the hospitals make money. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. But when hospitals pay their doctors based on the number or value of their referrals, the doctors have incentives to refer more. The potential for abuse is obvious and requires scrutiny. The Stark Act and the False Claims Act work together to ensure this scrutiny and safeguard taxpayer funds against abuse. The Stark Act forbids hospitals to bill Medicare for certain services when the hospital has a financial relationship with the doctor who asked for those services, unless an exception applies. And the False Claims Act gives the government and relators a cause of action with which to sue those who violate the Stark Act. 6 Here, the relators allege that the defendants have for years been billing Medicare for services referred by their neurosurgeons in violation of the Stark Act. The District Court found that the relators had failed to state a plausible claim and dismissed their suit. This appeal revolves around two questions: First, do the relators offer enough facts to plausibly allege that the surgeons’ pay varies with, or takes into account, their referrals? Second, who bears the burden of pleading Stark Act exceptions under the False Claims Act? The answer to the first question is yes. The relators’ complaint alleges enough facts to make out their claim. The surgeons’ contracts make it very likely that their pay varies with their referrals. And the relators also make a plausible case that the surgeons’ pay is so high that it must take referrals into account. All these facts are smoke; and where there is smoke, there might be fire. The answer to the second question is the defendants. The Stark Act’s exceptions work like affirmative defenses in litigation. The burden of pleading these affirmative defenses lies with the defendant. This is true even under the False Claims Act. And even if that burden lay with the relators, their pleadings meet that burden here. We hold that the complaint states plausible violations of both the Stark Act and the False Claims Act. So we will reverse.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UNDERINSURANCE-CHANGE IN LIMITS-FORMS
This is a certified question of law from the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The court inquires whether an increase to the limits of underinsured motorist coverage for multiple vehicles that are insured under an existing policy constitutes a “purchase” for purposes of Subsection 1738(c) of the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law. Based upon the plain language of Subsection 1738(c), the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania concludes that it does. Therefore, an increase of UIM coverage under such circumstances triggers an insurance company’s statutory obligation to offer an insured the opportunity to waive stacking of the new, aggregate amount of UIM coverage. Barnard v. Travelers Home and Marine Insurance Company, 2019 Pa. LEXIS 5449 (Pa. S.Ct. September 26, 2019).
QUI TAM ACTION-INSURANCE
Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co vs. Arnold, 2019 Pa. Super. LEXIS 692. This case involves defense of a case based upon the False Claims Act. The exception invoked by Nationwide was the Business Pursuits exception. Summary judgment should have been granted for Nationwide, claims the insurance company because of the “Business Pursuits” exclusion in the umbrella policy. The court considered this a close case. Nationwide carries the burden of proving the applicability of the exclusion. The complaint does not contest specific actions taken by Arnold while he was engaged in his work at PennDot. Arnold’s position had nothing to do with interpreting contracts or billing. CMC is not seeking to impose liability on Arnold for something he did at, or in the context of, his employment. All the context CMC complains of were actions taken by Arnold outside of his job. According to CMC, Arnold pursued his qui tam action because he personally disagreed with how PennDot officials interpreted the contracts and wanted to benefit himself financially. We conclude that Arnold’s litigation of the supposedly basis qui tam action against CMC did not arise out of his business pursuits. Nationwide did not prove that the business pursuits exclusion applied here. At bottom, CMC’s allegations challenge Arnold’s personal conduct, not actions he took or events that transpired in the context of his employment. We decline to construe the “business pursuits” exclusion so broadly that coverage is precluded for allegations with any nexus whatsoever to an insured’s work. Accordingly, we determine that the “business pursuits” exclusion does not apply, and Nationwide has a duty to defend Arnold in the CMC action. We reverse that aspect of the trial court’s order to the extent it imposes an absolute duty on Nationwide to indemnify Arnold, and we clarify that Nationwide has a duty to indemnity only if Arnold is found to be liable for a covered claim under the Umbrella Policy.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-HOUSEHOLD EXCLUSION-RETROACTIVITY
Stockdale vs. Allstate Fire & Cas. Ins. Co., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 101133, *2. This Case presents an unresolved question of Pennsylvania law: What effect should be given to Gallagher vs. GEICO Indemnity Co., 201 A.3d 131 (Pa. 2019). A Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision that held a particular insurance exclusion – called the “household exclusion” – violated Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law, 75 Pa. C.S.A. 1701 et. seq. (“MVFRL”)? Plaintiff argues that, as is generally the case, the holding should e applied to cases brought after Gallagher was decided, but concerning events that predate the decision. Defendant, however, argues that an exception to that general rule is in order here and that Gallagher should be applied only to cases arising out of events that postdate the decision. As explained below, no exception warranted here and defendant’s motion to dismiss the Complaint will be denied accordingly.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-EXCLUSIONS-HOUSEHOLD EXCLUSION
Gallagher vs. Geico Indem. Co., 201 A.3d 131, *131; 2019 Pa. LEXIS 345, **1 Justice Bear. This appeal requires the Court to determine whether a “household vehicle exclusion” contained in a motor vehicle insurance policy violates Section 1738 of the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (“MVFRL”). 75 Pa. C.S.1738, because the exclusion impermissibly acts as a de facto waiver of stacked uninsured and underinsured motorist (“UM” and “UIM,” respectively) coverages. We hold that the household vehicle exclusion violates the MVRFL. Accordingly, we vacate the Superior Court’s judgment, reverse the trial court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of Appellee GEICO Indemnity Company (“GEICO”), and remand to the trial court for further proceedings. On the morning of August 22, 2012, Appellant Brian Gallagher (“Gallagher”) was operating his motorcycle when William Stouffer (“Stouffer”) failed to stop his pickup truck at a stop sign. Stouffer’s truck collided with Gallagher’s motorcycle, causing Gallagher to suffer severe injuries. At the time of the accident, Gallagher had two insurance policies; notably, he purchased both of the policies from GEICO. One policy, which included $50,000 of UIM coverage insured only Gallagher’s motorcycle (“Motorcycle Policy”). The second policy insured Gallagher’s two automobiles and provided for $100,000 of UIM coverage for each vehicle (“Automobile Policy”). Gallagher opted and paid for stacked UM and UIM coverage when purchasing both policies. Stouffer was insured by Progressive Insurance Company (“Progressive”), and Gallagher eventually settled his claim against Stouffer and Progressive. However Stouffer’s insurance coverage was insufficient to compensate Gallagher in full. Consequently, Gallagher filed claims with GEICO seeking staked UIM benefits under both of his GEICO policies. While GEICO paid Gallagher the $50,000 policy limits of UIM coverage available under the Motorcycle Policy, it denied his claim for stacked UIM benefits under the Automobile Policy. GEICO based its decision on a household vehicle exclusion found in an amendment to the Automobile Policy. The exclusion states as follows: “This coverage does not apply to bodily injury while occupying or from being struck by a vehicle owned or leased by you or a relative that is not insured for Underinsured Motorists Coverage under this policy.” Because Gallagher suffered bodily injury while occupying his motorcycle, which was not insured under the Automobile Policy, GEICO took the position that the household vehicle exclusion precluded Gallagher from receiving stacked UIM coverage pursuant to that policy. Here, it is undisputed that: (1) Stouffer, the tortfeasor who caused the accident, was underinsured; (2) Gallagher did not sign the statutorily-prescribed UIM stacking waiver form for either of his GEICO policies; and (3) he would have received the UIM coverage that he bought and paid for under both of his GEICO policies pursuant to Subsection 1738(a) of the MVFRL, save for the “household vehicle exclusion” found in an amendment to the Automobile Policy for which no explicit, formal acknowledgment was provided. This policy provision, buried in an amendment, is inconsistent with the unambiguous requirements of Section 1738 of the MVFRL uner the facts of this case insomuch as it acts as a de facto waiver of stacked UIM coverage provided for in the MVFRL, despite the indisputable reality that Gallagher did not sign the statutorily-prescribed UIM coverage waiver form. Instead, Gallagher decided to purchase stacked UM/UIM coverage under both of his policies, and he paid GEICO premiums commensurate with that decision. He simply never chose to waive formally stacking as is plainly required by the MVFRL. For all these reasons, we hold that the household vehicle exclusion violates the MVRFL; therefore, these exclusions are unenforceable as a matter of law. Accordingly, we vacate the Superior Court’s judgment, reverse the trial court’s order granting GEICO’s motion for summary judgment, and remand the matter to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-EXCESS COVERAGE-UMBRELLA POLICY-UNDERINSURANCE
Warrick v. Empire Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 49716 (March 25, 2019) Kenney, J.-Plaintiff Richard Warrick brings an action for breach of contract and bad faith against Defendant Empire Fire and Marine Insurance Company for denying his claim of underinsured motorist coverage following an accident in November 2016 with an allegedly underinsured motorist. Plaintiff claims that Defendant is liable to Plaintiff based on Plaintiff’s purchase of Supplemental Liability Protection from Enterprise Leasing Company of Philadelphia, LLC, to whom Empire Fire and Marine Insurance Company issued an excess policy. Even if Empire had not separately excluded underinsured motorist coverage, it would be excluded from the MVFRL’s requirement that it provide underinsured motorist coverage or that it use the written rejection form because it is an excess policy and not subject to the requirements of the MVFRL.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UM/UIM-HOUSEHOLD EXCLUSION
Gallagher v. Geico Indem. Co., 2019 S. C. of PA, LEXIS 345 (January 23, 2019) Baer, J- This appeal requires the Court to determine whether a “household vehicle exclusion” contained in a motor vehicle insurance policy violates Section 1738 of the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (“MVFRL”), 75 Pa.C.S. § 1738, because the exclusion impermissibly acts as a de facto waiver of stacked uninsured and underinsured motorist (“UM” and “UIM,” respectively) coverages.1 We hold that the household vehicle exclusion violates the MVFRL. Accordingly, we vacate the Superior Court’s judgment, reverse the trial court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of Appellee GEICO Indemnity Company (“GEICO”), and remand to the trial court for further proceedings.
The facts underlying this appeal are undisputed. On the morning of August 22, 2012, Appellant Brian Gallagher (“Gallagher”) was operating his motorcycle when William Stouffer (“Stouffer”) failed to stop his pickup truck at a stop sign. Stouffer’s truck collided with Gallagher’s motorcycle, causing Gallagher to suffer severe injuries. At the time of the accident, Gallagher had two insurance policies; he purchased both of the policies from GEICO. One policy, which included $50,000 of UIM coverage, insured only Gallagher’s motorcycle (“Motorcycle Policy”). The second policy insured Gallagher’s two automobiles and provided for $100,000 of UIM coverage for each vehicle (“Automobile Policy”). Gallagher opted and paid for stacked UM and UIM coverage when purchasing both policies. Stouffer was insured by Progressive Insurance Company (“Progressive”), and Gallagher eventually settled his claim against Stouffer and Progressive. However, Stouffer’s insurance coverage was insufficient to compensate Gallagher in full. Gallagher filed claims with GEICO seeking stacked UIM benefits under both of his GEICO policies. While GEICO paid Gallagher the $50,000 policy limits of UIM coverage available under the Motorcycle Policy, it denied his claim for stacked UIM benefits under the Automobile Policy. GEICO based its decision on a household vehicle exclusion found in an amendment to the Automobile Policy. The exclusion states as follows: “This coverage does not apply to bodily injury while occupying or from being struck by a vehicle owned or leased by you or a relative that is not insured for Underinsured Motorists Coverage under this policy.” Because Gallagher suffered bodily injury while occupying his motorcycle, which was not insured under the Automobile Policy, GEICO took the position that the household vehicle exclusion precluded Gallagher from receiving stacked UIM coverage pursuant to that policy. Gallagher claimed that, because he purchased stacked UIM coverage as part of the Automobile Policy, GEICO is required to provide that coverage. GEICO responded by filing an answer with new matter, wherein it contended that stacked UIM coverage was unavailable to Gallagher due to the Automobile Policy’s household vehicle exclusion. Gallagher pointed out that GEICO placed his motorcycle and automobiles on separate policies and, thus, had full knowledge of all of his vehicles. He further stated that, because he opted and paid for stacked UM/UIM coverage, GEICO charged him a higher premium on both policies. According to Gallagher, by denying him stacked UIM coverage based upon the household vehicle exclusion, GEICO was depriving him of the stacked UIM coverage for which he paid. Gallagher highlighted that GEICO was well aware that he had not waived stacked coverage on either of his policies and that he had paid increased premiums for that coverage; yet, GEICO refused to honor his claim for stacked UIM coverage, rendering that coverage illusory. We hold that the household vehicle exclusion violates the MVFRL; therefore, these exclusions are unenforceable as a matter of law. Accordingly, we vacate the Superior Court’s judgment, reverse the trial court’s order granting GEICO’s motion for summary judgment, and remand the matter to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
INSURANCE-MCARE-HOSPITAL 715 STATUS
Montgomery Hosp. & Med. Ctr. vs. Bureau of Med. Care Availability & Reduction of Error Fund (MCARE Fund), 2019 Pa. Cmwlth LEXIS 28 (January 4, 2019) Simpson, J.-Hospital seeks a declaration that it is entitled to §715 status and that the MCARE Fund must be a hospital’s defense cost to the third-party action. Section 715 of the MCARE Act deems a third-party claim to have been brought less than four years after the negligent act where the defendant medical provider rendered “multiple treatments or consultations” to third-party plaintiff-patient within the four year period. Claims falling into this latter category are not covered §715 status. The hospital claimed that the radiologist whose liability was sought by plaintiff were independent contractors and not employees of the hospital. The hospital position as to who is responsible for the radiologist is irrelevant since the plaintiff has pled ostensible agency, which is expressly governed by the MCARE Act. The court could not conclude as a matter of law that the hospital could not be liable for vicarious liability in connection with the radiologist’s allegedly negligent treatment of third-party plaintiff during the four year period preceding commencement of the third-party action. The hospital has requested summary relief based on the purported absence of vicarious liability is denied.
ERISA-GROUP INSURANCE-SUPPLEMENTAL LONG-TERM DISABILITY POLICY-SPECIALITY RATED-DIAGNOSTIC RADIOLOGIST AS OPPOSED TO INTERVENTIONAL RADIOLOGIST AT TIME OF DISABILITY
McCann v. Unum Provident, 2018 3d Cir. 2018 LEXIS 29638 (October 5, 2018) Scirica, J.-The Department of Labor has promulgated a safe harbor regulation exempting certain plans from the definition of an “employee welfare benefit plan.” But we conclude Dr. McCann’s then-employer sufficiently endorsed the plan under which his policy was purchased to render the safe harbor inapplicable. ERISA will supply the governing framework. As to the merits, we believe Provident incorrectly defined Dr. McCann’s occupation in administering his disability claim and that the claim must be evaluated in the context of his specialty – interventional radiology. We will remand for the District Court to consider whether Dr. McCann’s medical conditions prevent him from being able to perform his “substantial and material duties” as an interventional radiologist as required by the terms of the policy.
INSURANCE-COMMERCIAL LIABILITY POLICY-EXCLUSIONS-DESIGNATED ONGOING OPERATIONS-VEHICLE DISMANTLING
Tuscarora Wayne Ins. In the Superior Court Co. v. Hebron, Inc., 2018 Superior Ct. LEXIS 1077 (October 3, 2018), Stabile, J. Fire occurred when truck driver was attempting to pump gas into a flatbed truck in the loading dock outside of the facility. The fire caused damage to the facility. The Superior Court said it was wrong for the lower court to grant summary judgment in favor of the insurance company against the insured. The court reversed. The cause of the fire was completely unrelated to the process of stripping the vehicle of its parts. The fire had nothing to do with designated ongoing operations which in this case was vehicle dismantling operations. The vehicles dismantling operations had ceased and were no more “ongoing operations.” The lower court was wrong.
INSURANCE-BAD FAITH-ATTORNEY’S FEES
Bernie Clemens, Nicole Clemens v. New York Central Mutual Fire Insurance Company, and/or NYCM Insurance Group and/or NYCM Holdings, Inc., 3d Cir. 2018 (Greenaway, Jr., J. After a jury awarded him $100,000 in punitive damages under the Pennsylvania Bad Faith Statute, 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 8371, Appellant Bernie Clemens submitted a petition for over $900,000 in attorney’s fees from Appellee New York Central Mutual Fire Insurance Company (“NYCM”). The District Court denied this petition in its entirety, reasoning that it was not adequately supported and that the requested amount was grossly excessive given the nature of the case. Finding no abuse of discretion, we will affirm and, in doing so, take the opportunity to formally endorse a view already adopted by several other circuits – that is, where a fee-shifting statute provides a court discretion to award attorney’s fees, such discretion includes the ability to deny a fee request altogether when, under the circumstances, the amount requested is “outrageously excessive.” Brown v. Stackler, 612 F.2d 1057, 1059 (7th Cir. 1980); see also, e.g., Envtl. Def. Fund, Inc. v. Reilly, 1 F.3d 1254, 1258-60 (D.C. Cir. 1993); Fair Hous. Council of Greater Wash. v. Landow, 999 F.2d 92, 97 (4th Cir. 1993); Lewis v. Kendrick, 944 F.2d 949, 956-58 (1st Cir. 1991). Although it was unusual, we cannot say that this decision was an abuse of discretion. Review of the record and the District Court’s comprehensive opinion makes clear that denial of a fee award was entirely appropriate under the circumstances of this case. Counsel’s success was severely deficient in numerous ways. All the more troubling is the fact that counsel’s (supposedly) hard work did not appear to pay off at trial. As the District Court explained, counsel had “to be repeatedly admonished for not being prepared because he was obviously unfamiliar with the Federal Rules of Evidence, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the rulings of th[e] court.” App. 630 (emphasis omitted). Given counsel’s subpar performance and the vagueness and excessiveness of the time entries, the District Court did not abuse its discretion in disallowing all 562 hours. Although we have never had the opportunity to formally endorse such an approach, other circuits have, holding that district courts have the discretion to deny a fee request in its entirety when the requested amount is “outrageously excessive” under the circumstances. Brown v. Stackler, 612 F.2d 1057, 1058 (7th Cir. 1980); see also, e.g., Scham v. District Courts Trying Criminal Cases, 148 F.3d 554, 556-59 (5th Cir. 1998), abrogated on other grounds as recognized in Bailey v. Mississippi, 407 F.3d 684, 686-87 (5th Cir. 2005); Envtl. Def. Fund, Inc. v. Reilly, 1 F.3d 1254, 1258-60 (D.C. Cir. 1993); Fair Hous. Council of Greater Wash. v. Landow, 999 F.2d 92, 97 (4th Cir. 1993); Lewis v. Kendrick, 944 F.2d 949, 956-58 (1st Cir. 1991). Here, the District Court provided a thorough explanation of how counsel failed to fulfill their duty to the court. This failure coupled with the other deficiencies in the petition and counsel’s substandard performance, justified the District Court’s decision to deny the fee request in its entirety. That decision was not an abuse of discretion.
Appellant’s counsel in district court were Michael J. Pisanchyn & Michael R. Mey.
INSURANCE-UNFAIR TRADE PRACTICES AND CONSUMER PROTECTION LAW-FRAUD OR DECEPTIVE CONDUCT
Gregg v Armerprise Fin., Inc., 2018 Pa. Super. LEXIS 1009 (September 12, 2018) Kunselman, J. This is a nonjury verdict finding that insurance company deceitfully profited from business transaction with Gary and Mary Gregg. The court found the insurance company violated that section of the Unfair Trade Practices & Consumer Protection Law, which prohibits anyone who advertises, sells or distributes goods and services from engaging in any fraudulent or deceptive conduct which creates a likelihood of confusion or misunderstanding during a transaction. At issue is the sale of life insurance. The transaction was somewhat complex, but what was of concern was where money was placed that was sent to the carriers. The money was put in a growth account which increased commissions because of a 5.75 surcharge. Insurance companies argued res judicata and collateral estoppel because a jury found that there was no misrepresentation. It acquitted the insurance companies on the UTPCPL count, argued the insurance companies. The companies believe that the trial court erred when it found them in violation of the UTPCPL after the jury verdict, which they felt was to the contrary. The judge, however, decided distinct issues. The defense verdict on misrepresentation is not res judicata or collateral estoppel against a non-jury UTPCPL catchall claim. The law outlawing deceptive conduct regardless of a vendor’s mental state. The consumer’s burden of proof is strict liability. The state of mind of the seller is relevant. A UTPCPL violation is not amenable to excuses. Vendors place themselves, by choosing where, when and how they enter the market, is in a much stronger position to comply fully with the UTPCPL before soliciting or interacting with consumers. Vendors not only elect whether to enter a market, but, because “the market” is a fictional place, they have full volitional control over their conduct when in it. The legislature has placed the duty of UTPCPL compliance squarely and solely on vendors; they are not to engage in deceitful conduct and have no legally cognizable excuse, if they do. The legislature imposed strict liability on vendors who deceive consumers by creating a likelihood of confusion or misunderstanding in private as well as public causes of actions. Carelessness or intent, required for negligent or fraudulent misrepresentations may be absent when perpetrating “deceptive conduct” under 73 P.S. § 201-2(4)(xxi). As such, we conclude that the insurance companies’ assertions of res judicata and collateral estoppel fail the first step of their respective tests. Common law misrepresentations and UTPCPL catchall violations present distinct legal issues. Damages are based upon statute and therefore common law issues concerning restitution and unjust enrichment do not apply.
INSURANCE-DEFENSE, DUTY TO PROVIDE-FOUR CORNERS RULE-EXCEPTIONS
Lupu v. Loan City, LLC, Nos. 17-1944 & 17-2024 (3d Cir. September 10, 2018) Ambro, C.J. What is the duty of a real estate title insurer in Pennsylvania to defend the insured party (here the successor to a lender) against claims of the borrower/mortgagor? Its courts, we predict, would not apply the “in for one, in for all” rule (known also as the complete defense rule)1—whereby a single covered claim triggers an obligation for the title insurer to defend the entire action—to a case about that insurer’s duty to defend. To identify a covered claim, we apply Pennsylvania’s rule that potentially covered claims are identified by “comparing the four corners of the insurance contract to the four corners of the complaint.” American & Foreign Ins. Co. v. Jerry’s Sport Center, Inc., 2 A.3d 526, 541 (Pa. 2010). The insured in its briefing used the latter term. As both the District Court and the title insurer refer to the rule by its more colloquial name, we do as well. Although the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was invited to make an exception to the “four corners” rule, it flatly declined, finding “no reason to expand upon the well-reasoned and long-standing rule that an insurer’s duty to defend is triggered, if at all, by the factual averments contained in the complaint itself.” Kvaerner Metals Div. of Kvaerner U.S., Inc. v. Commercial Union Ins. Co., 908 A.2d 888 (Pa. 2006). We thus honor its decision to maintain a simple, bright-line rule. In sum, per Kvaerner, the seminal case on the issue, we may not look for a covered claim beyond the four corners of Lupu’s complaint and how it matches up with the actual terms of the Title Policy. This dispute centers on the Third and Fourth Amended Complaints, to which we turn. The duty to defend arose when Lupu filed the Fourth Amended Complaint, including there the forgery allegations he had referred to earlier in response to interrogatories. After Lupu filed the Fourth Amended Complaint, Stewart Title agreed to provide a partial defense and retained counsel. What is left to consider is whether it needed to defend Ocwen against the entire Complaint. We predict, for the same reasons, that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court would also create a title-policy exception to the “in for one, in for all” rule. Given the unique title insurance context, by doing so it would “consider the language of the policy and the expectation of the insured so as to give reasonable meaning to its terms.” Rood v. Commw. Land Title Ins. Co., 936 A.2d 488, 491 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2007) (citation omitted). As the issue is undecided by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the District Court reasoned that it must apply the general rule that “a title insurance policy is subject to the same rules of construction that govern other insurance policies[.]” Lupu, 244 F. Supp. 3d at 465 (quoting Rood, 936 A.2d at 491, which noted the rule is “general”). But the lack of state-law authority creating an exception to the “in for one, in for all” rule does not compel us to define its scope by that general statement. Federal courts, when sitting in diversity, are no ostriches. We do and “often must engage in a substantial amount of conjecture.” Wisniewski v. Johns-Manville Corp., 759 F.2d 271, 273 (3d Cir. 1985). While Pennsylvania courts have not addressed this issue, the reasoning applied in out-of-state cases is sufficient “persuasive data” to convince us of the direction they would go. Meyer v. CUNA Mut. Ins. Co., 648 F.3d 154, 162 (3d. Cir. 2011). Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court tells us that an insurer’s duty to defend turns on the allegations within the four corners of a complaint matched against the terms of the insurance policy. Kvaerner, 908 A.2d at 896. We follow suit here in holding that Stewart Title’s duty to defend Ocwen against Lupu’s claims did not exist until the filing of the Fourth Amended Complaint. But is Stewart Title bound to defend the entire Complaint? Its Title Policy states that it would not also defend non-covered claims in the action. There was at least one covered claim in the litigation underlying this coverage dispute, and Stewart Title must defend it (or such other claims covered by the Title Policy). Beyond that, however, we hold the parties to their bargain. We thus affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.
INSURANCE FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-FIRST PARTY BENEFITS-MEDICAL BENEFITS-CONTRACT BREACH-BAD FAITH-UNFAIR TRADE PRACTICES AND CONSUMER PROTECTION LAW
Shea v USAA, 2018, U.S. Dist. LEXIS 234750 (July 25, 2018), Surrick, J. This case involves failure to pay first party medical benefits. Instead the insurance company demanded peer review. Viewing the allegations in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the pleading raises a reasonable expectation that discovery will produce evidence that an insurance contract existed between Plaintiff and Defendant, Defendant breached the contract, and that breach caused Plaintiff to incur ascertainable losses. The breach of contract claim survives dismissal. We join the growing majority of federal and state courts that have followed the rationale of Schwartz. “Whenever a general provision in a statute shall be in conflict with a special provision in the same or another statute, the two shall be construed, if possible, so that effect may be given to both.” Schwartz, 1996 WL 189839, at *5 (citing 1 Pa. C.S.A. 1933). Where an insurer has not complied with Section 1797’s specific provisions, there is no reason to limit the damages recoverable from the insurer to those damages set out in Section 1797. Id. In those situations, as alleged here, Section 1797 and Section 8371 are not irreconcilable. Id. Both statutes can be given full effect. Section 1797 is the exclusive remedy when it applies; Section 8371 applies in all other cases. Id. It is alleged that Defendant knew Plaintiff’s insurance claim was legitimate, but still submitted the medical bills for her treatment to a favored and financially self-interested PRO. Defendant did so, it is alleged, planning or at least fully expecting to procure evaluations that were biased, false and misleading as to the necessity for Plaintiff’s treatment, in order to support Defendant’s preordained decision to preserve its own coffers by denying Plaintiff insured medical benefits. Taking these alleged facts as true, Defendant has acted not only outside the scope of Section 1797, but also in bad faith by refusing to pay Plaintiff’s insurance claim without a reasonable basis for the denial of insured medical benefits. Accordingly, the Count IV claim for bad faith under Section 8371 survives dismissal. In the context of this case, the pleading contains sufficient factual mater to state a plausible claim for deceptive conduct under the UTPCPL’s catchall provision. Viewing those allegations in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, malfeasance is pled. Defendant it is alleged, deceptively misused the peer review proceed in order to procure sham medical opinions to supports its preordained denial of insured medical benefits. This shows more than a “[m]ere refusal to pay a claim or failure to investigate or take other action.” Nordi, 989 A.3d at 385. For the foregoing reasons, USAA’s Motion pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) to dismiss Counts I, IV and V of the First Amended Complaint will be denied.
Preferred Contrs. Ins. Co., RRG, LLC v Sherman, 2018 Super Ct. of PA, LEXIS 844 (July 24, 2018), Murray, J. The insured was aware that roofing work would not be covered. There was an incident here and the insurance company denied coverage for an injured individual. Apparently it was decided under Montana law. There were material issues of fact for a jury to resolve as to whether the insured made misrepresentations or omissions in its insurance application that materially affected the decision of the insurance company to issue a policy. The trial court did not error in determining that delivery of the policy did not actually occur here. Montana is cited that insured not rely on the coverage exclusions in an insurance policy if the insurer fails to deliver the policy to the insured.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-COVERAGE-NON-OWNED CAR-LAWFUL POSSESSION BY YOU OR ANY RESIDENT RELATIVE
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. Erin C. Dooner, 2018 Pa. Super. 146 (June 5, 2018) Bender, P.J.E. State Farm granted summary judgment. Mr. and Mrs. Dooner were being driven home by third party appellant. Husband and wife had a fight, and Ms. Dooner grabbed the steering wheel and jerked it. This caused the car to swerve into oncoming traffic and collide head-on with a police cruiser. Lawsuits were filed by the injured people against Dooner relative to the accident. The court found that there was no coverage and granted summary judgment because this was not the situation of a “non-owned car” being lawfully operated. Ms. Dooner was not in “lawful possession” of the car at the time of the accident when she grabbed the steering wheel. She was neither in possession nor was her possession, if there was such, “lawful.” Ms. Dooner’s action of grabbing the steering wheel did not constitute possession of the vehicle but rather interfered with its operation. Even if Ms. Dooner was found in possession of the car at the time of the accident, the possession was not lawful.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-SUBROGATION-PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE
Pennsylvania State Police v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Bushta), 2018 Pa. LEXIS 2582 (May 29, 2018) Todd, J. In this discretionary appeal, we consider whether Appellant, the Pennsylvania State Police (“PSP”), is entitled to subrogation of benefits that a trooper—who was injured in a motor vehicle accident—was eligible to receive under the Workers’ Compensation Act (“WCA”) against the trooper’s recovery from a third-party tortfeasor pursuant to the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (“MVFRL”). For the reasons that follow, we conclude that PSP does not have a right of subrogation. Accordingly, we affirm the order of the Commonwealth Court.
The instant appeal involved the interplay between three Pennsylvania statutes—the WCA, the Heart and Lung Act, and the MVFRL.
On January 21, 2014, Claimant and his spouse entered into a Settlement and Indemnity Agreement and Release of all Claims (“Settlement Agreement”) with the tractor-trailer driver, the driver’s employer, and the other responsible parties (collectively, “third-party tortfeasors”) for $1,070.000.1 The Settlement Agreement provided, inter alia, that Claimant would “reimburse any lien holder, known or unknown, for any liens as a result of the ․ incident.” Claimant further acknowledged that he was “solely responsible for the payment of any medical bills, hospital liens, MedPay liens, worker[s’] compensation liens, attorney’s fees, taxes, withholding and all other fees, costs and expenses they have incurred as a result of the Accident.” Id. at 1 ¶ 6.
On February 4, 2014, PSP filed a petition to review compensation benefits pursuant to Section 771 of the WCA, asserting a right of subrogation against the proceeds of Claimant’s settlement with the third-party tortfeasors under Section 319 of the WCA. On November 19, 2014, Claimant entered into a signed stipulation (“Stipulation”) with PSP and PSP’s third-party administrator, Inservco Insurance Services, Inc. (“Inservco”). The Stipulation indicated, in pertinent part, that, between the date of Claimant’s injury on February 26, 2011 and the date he returned to work on June 3, 2012, Claimant had been paid $56,873.13 under the WCA.
By contrast, this case does involve the [MVFRL], and it prohibits a plaintiff from including as an element of damages payments received in the form of workers’ compensation or other “benefits paid or payable by a program ․ or other arrangement.” 75 Pa.C.S. § 720. This language “benefits paid or payable by a program” has been construed to include the program by which Heart and Lung benefits are paid. Fulmer [v. Pennsylvania State Police, 167 Pa.Cmwlth. 60, 647 A.2d 616, 618–19 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1994) ]. Section 25(b) of Act 44 changed the Section 1720 paradigm only for workers’ compensation benefits, not Heart and Lung benefits. This means Claimant continued to be “precluded” from recovering the amount of benefits paid under the Heart and Lung Act from the responsible tortfeasors. 75 Pa.C.S. § 722. There can be no subrogation out of an award that does not include [workers’ compensation benefits]. Likewise, because the tort recovery cannot, as a matter of law, include a loss of wages covered by Heart and Lung benefits, Claimant did not receive a double recovery of lost wages or medical bills.
Payment of a claimant’s medical care and treatment is required under the Heart and Lung Act, and, regardless of the pricing schedule utilized, such payment constitutes a Heart and Lung benefit.
For all of the foregoing reasons, we conclude that all of the benefits Claimant received were Heart and Lung benefits, not WCA benefits. Thus, pursuant to the MVFRL, PSP does not have a right of subrogation against Claimant’s settlement with the third-party tortfeasors. Accordingly, we affirm the order of the Commonwealth Court.
1. f this amount, $200,000 was apportioned to the Claimant’s spouse’s loss of consortium claim. Further, the contingent fee agreement between Claimant, his spouse, and their personal injury attorneys, Powell Law, provided that the firm would receive 33 1/3 % of the recovery, and that Claimant would be responsible for the costs incurred in connection with the prosecution of the third-party claim, which totaled $18,723.68.
BAD FAITH-COLLISION REPAIR
Berg v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, 2018 Pa. Super. LEXIS 604 (June 5, 2018) Stabile, J. Appellant, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, Inc., appeals from the April 21, 2015 judgment against it on the bad faith claim of Appellee Daniel Berg, individually and as the executor of the estate of Sharon Berg a/k/a Sheryl Berg. We vacate the judgment and remand for entry of judgment in favor of Appellant.
The court, in the bench trial, found against the insurer and the Superior Court threw out the verdict.
The court will reverse the finding of bad faith where the trial court’s “critical factual findings are either unsupported by the record or do not rise to the level of bad faith.” Brown v. Progressive Insurance, 860 A.2d 493, 502 (Pa. Super. 2004) emphasis added, appeal denied 872 A.2d 1197 (2005). Insurers must cover insureds for the fair value of their loss. Here, the insurance company covered the cost of repairs to the Jeep. In terms of the initial appraisal, the court found bad faith but the appellate court did not believe that was justified. The evidence does not support the trial court’s finding that anyone in the company overrode or vetoed the total loss appraisal. Further investigation had been contemplated. The claims log was not falsified or altered in any way. The record also confirms that a potential total loss normally triggers further investigation from the insurer. The trial court ignored a large body of evidence that rendered its findings unsupported. The witnesses who addressed the matter testified that the Jeep was repairable. The record contains no evidence to support a finding that the Jeep was beyond repair. Plaintiffs bore the burden of proving bad faith by clear and convincing evidence. There is no evidence that the Jeep was beyond repair. The record only confirms that there was a failure to repair the Jeep properly. This does not support a finding by clear and convincing evidence that the Jeep was beyond repair. Insurer does not have a duty to inspect repairs prior to returning a vehicle to an insured. At most that would be negligence. The trial court found that the insurance company engaged in bad faith by not properly processing, adjusting and setting the claim. The trial court points to the length of time litigating the claim, the cost to defend the action, and the overruling of the initial appraisal declaring the Jeep a total loss. The record does not support a finding that the insurance company failed to attempt to resolve the dispute in its early stages. In particular, the carrier asked for permission to have an independent expert inspect the Jeep two weeks after plaintiffs filed suit, after which the insurance company informed plaintiff it would have the Jeep repaired at the shop of plaintiff’s choice or purchase the jeep if it could not be repaired. The evidence merely is not there to support bad faith.
INSURANCE-BAD FAITH-AUTOMOBILE APPRAISAL
Berg v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, 2018 Pa. Super. LEXIS 317 (April 9, 2018) Stabile, J. Appellant, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, Inc., appealed from the April 21, 2015 judgment against it on the bad faith claim of Appellee Daniel Berg, individually and as the executor of the estate of Sharon Berg a/k/a Sheryl Berg. The court vacated the judgment and remanded for entry of judgment in favor of Appellant.
On September 4, 1996, Plaintiff, Sheryl Berg, the policyholder of a collision insurance contract with [Appellant], was driving her 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee, insured by [Appellant], when she was hit by another vehicle; fortunately, neither party was injured in the collision. The only issue in this sixteen-year-old case is if [Appellant] breached its fiduciary obligation to Plaintiffs. The ensuing litigation marathon is a significant factor found by this court in resolving the bad faith claim brought by Plaintiffs against [Appellant]. [Appellant’s] fiduciary obligation to Plaintiff arose by the parties entering into a contract whereby the physical damage coverage for the collision required [Appellant] to, inter alia, 1) pay for the loss or 2) repair or replace the damaged parts.
Plaintiffs’ causes of action against Appellant included breach of contract, negligence, fraud, conspiracy, violations of the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (“UTPCPL”), 73 P.S. § 201-2(4)(xxi), 1968 P. L. 1224, as amended, and insurance bad faith, 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 8371. Plaintiffs amended their complaint eight times, raising and ultimately abandoning a class action. Plaintiffs filed their eighth amended complaint on October 25, 1999. Ultimately, the parties proceeded to a jury trial on fraud, conspiracy, and UTPCPL actions. The jury trial commenced on December 13, 2004. The jury rendered a verdict in favor of Appellant and Lindgren on all causes of action except the catchall provision of the UTPCPL. The jury awarded Plaintiffs $1,925.00 in compensatory damages from Lindgren and $295.00 from Appellant for the UTPCPL violation. The basis for the jury’s finding of a UTPCPL violation is not clear from the record.
We find no support in the record for the trial court’s finding that Appellant prevented Plaintiffs from conducting a “full analysis [of the Jeep] in furtherance of this lawsuit.” Opinion and Verdict, 6/23/14, at 10. Plaintiffs were in possession of the Jeep from December 31, 1996, the date Lindgren returned it, until mid-December, 1998, when the lease expired. Phillips inspected the Jeep for Plaintiffs in November of 1997. Plaintiffs made no further inspections of the Jeep prior to the expiration of the lease or during its storage after Appellant purchased it. Pursuant to a February 11, 1999 order from Judge Stallone, the parties were to share storage expenses and each party had full access to the Jeep.
We vacate the judgment because the record does not support many of the trial court’s critical findings of fact. We are cognizant of the standard governing our review, and we have not reached our decision lightly. We understand that the trial court, as fact finder, was free to choose which evidence to believe and disbelieve. Likewise, we understand that our standard of review requires us to defer to findings supported in the record and draw reasonable inferences in favor of Plaintiffs. Nonetheless, our case law provides that bad faith claims are fact specific (Condio, 899 A.2d at 1143), must be proven by clear and convincing evidence, and that the fact finder must consider “all of the evidence available” (Berg II, 44 A.3d at 1179). After an exhaustive review of the very large record in this case, we believe we have no choice but to vacate the judgment. We have quoted extensively from the record in an effort to provide full context for our decision. We observe that the trial court’s opinions, while very lengthy, cite infrequently to the record.
We disagree with the Dissent’s assertion that we are substituting our own findings for those of the trial court. Rather, our review of the extensive record in this matter convinces us that the trial court’s findings are not supported by the facts of record and our citations to the certified record belie any assertion that we have improperly substituted our findings for the trial court’s. The law permits a finding of bad faith only on clear and convincing evidence. Clear and convincing evidence is evidence that is “so clear, direct, weighty, and convincing as to enable either a judge or jury to come to a clear conviction, without hesitancy, of the truth of the precise facts in issue.” Grossi, 79 A.3d at 1165. The trial court’s highly selective citation to a voluminous record plainly failed to meet that standard. Respectfully, we believe the Dissent, under the guise of strict adherence to the standard of review, makes the same error.
In summary, we have concluded: (1) the record does not support the trial court’s finding that Joffred issued a repair estimate on September 20, 1997 only after Witmer vetoed Joffred’s total loss appraisal; (2) the record contains no evidence that the Jeep was damaged beyond repair; (3) the record contains no evidence that Appellant had actual knowledge of the Jeep’s condition upon its return to Plaintiffs; and (4) Appellant’s conduct subsequent to its knowledge of the Jeep’s condition—including its conduct of this litigation—was not a bad faith effort to cover up prior misdeeds.
The trial court engaged in a limited and highly selective analysis of the facts and drew the most malignant possible inferences from the facts it chose to consider. We do not believe our appellate standard of review, circumscribed as it is, requires or even permits us to affirm the trial court’s decision in this case. This is especially so given Plaintiffs’ burden of proving their case by clear and convincing evidence. We have no occasion to address Appellant’s remaining assertions of error.
Judgment vacated. Case remanded for entry of judgment in favor of Appellant. Jurisdiction relinquished.
INSURANCE-ENVIRONMENTAL-BURDEN OF PROOF
Conrail v. Ace Property & Csualty Insurance Co., 2018 Pa. Super. LEXIS 261 (March 23, 2018) Gantman, P.J. The court found that summary judgment should be denied and a question of fact existed for a jury as to whether pollution-related liabilities should be covered. The existence of a principal-agent relationship is ordinarily one for the jury to determine. The policy defines “occrrence” as “an event, continuous repeated exposure to conditions which cause personal injury, property damage or evacuation expenses.” The case discusses what “property damage” is in this context. The lower court opinion is cited frequently. As a practical matter, the burden shifts to the insurance company to proffer evidence that the polluting discharge was expected or intended. The question of whether designer-induced burps were expected or intended by Conrail is an issue of fact for trial. Not all of the spills documented at the site during Conrail’s tenure were burps, so some of the spills may well prove to have been unexpected and unintended. The lower court’s sound analysis was praised.
INSURANCE-FLOOD INSURANCE-STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
Migliaro v. Fidelity National Indemnity Insurance Company, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 2097 (January 29, 2018) Rendell, C.J. The issue in this case is whether the rejection of a policyholder’s proof of loss constituted a “written denial of all or part of the claim,” thereby triggering the one-year statute of limitations that is set forth in every Standard Flood Insurance Policy (“SFIP”). After receiving a payment from Fidelity National Indemnity Insurance Company, based on an adjuster’s assessment of the damage to his property caused by Hurricane Sandy, Anthony Migliaro submitted a sworn proof of loss seeking additional compensation. Fidelity sent Migliaro a letter rejecting his proof of loss, and he filed suit. The District Court found that the letter rejecting Migliaro’s proof of loss was a “written denial of all or part of the claim.” Since Migliaro filed his complaint almost two years after he received the letter, the District Court dismissed the suit as time-barred. We affirm the District Court’s order. Although the rejection of a proof of loss is not per se a denial of the claim in whole or in part, it does constitute a denial of the claim if, as here, the policyholder treats it as such by filing suit against the carrier.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UNINSURED MOTORIST CLAIM-STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
Erie Insurance Exchange v. Bristol, 2017 Pa. LEXIS 3183 (November 22, 2017) Mundy, J. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania granted allowance of appeal to determine when the statute of limitations begins to run on an uninsured motorist claim. The Superior Court held that, for purposes of UM and UIM claims, the statute of limitations begins to run when a claimant injured in an automobile accident first learns that the other driver is uninsured or underinsured. The Supreme Court disagreed and held that the statute of limitations attending contract principles apply and the running of the statute is commenced upon an alleged breach of a contractual duty, which in this case would be occasioned by the insurer’s denial of coverage or refusal to arbitrate. We therefore reverse the Superior Court’s order to the contrary.
INSURANCE-AUTISM COVERAGE LAW-EXCLUSIONS
Burke v. Independence Blue Cross, No. 23 EAP 2016 (E.D. Pa. October 5, 2017) Saylor, C.J. The questions presented concern whether a law requiring private insurance companies to provide coverage for treatment of autism spectrum disorders invalidates express, contractual place-of-services exclusions pertaining to the delivery of such services in schools.
Among other modifications to the Insurance Company Law of 1921, Act 62 of 2008 amended this statutory regime to require that certain group health insurance policies provide coverage for the “treatment of autism-spectrum disorders,” subject to an initial $36,000 maximum benefit annually. Per this amendment — denominated by the Insurance Department as the “Autism Coverage Law” — relevant treatment is defined to include “medically necessary pharmacy care, psychiatric care, psychological care, rehabilitative care and therapeutic care” prescribed and provided in accordance with Act 62, 40 P.S. § 764h(f)(14).
Superior Court was affirmed that the law is ambiguous and confusing. The case was remanded in order to determine what services are to be provided, and basically when and where.
INSURANCE-LIQUOR LIABILITY COVERAGE-LIMITS
Good v. Frankie & Eddie’s Hanover Inn, LLP, 2017 Pa. Super. LEXIS 727 (September 21, 2017) Musmanno, J. Florence A. Good (“Good”), individually and as executrix of the Estate of Barry D. Good, deceased (“the Estate”), appeals from the Order denying Good’s Motion for Summary Judgment in a declaratory judgment action against Frankie & Eddie’s Hanover Inn, LLP (“Hanover Inn”), and RCA Insurance Group (“RCA”), on behalf of State National Insurance Company, and denying as moot RCA’s Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment. We affirm.
On April 4, 2012, at approximately 10:56 p.m., Barry D. Good (“the Deceased”) was fatally injured when a Ford F250, driven by Francis Lynch (“Lynch”), collided with the Deceased’s Kawasaki Vulcan Motorcycle. At the time of the accident, Lynch was driving under the influence of alcohol, which had been served to him at Hanover Inn.
On the date of the accident, Hanover Inn was covered by a commercial insurance policy (“the Policy”) issued by RCA. The Policy includes a Liquor Liability Coverage Form, which provides for liquor liability coverage with an “Aggregate Limit,” as well as an “Each Common Cause Limit.” The Declarations page of the Policy specifies that the liquor liability coverage limit for “Each Occurrence” is $500,000, and the “Aggregate” limit is $1,000,000.
During the pendency of the wrongful death and survival action, a dispute arose regarding the applicable amount of coverage under the Policy. The parties entered into a settlement agreement for the underlying action, whereby RCA agreed to pay the undisputed amount of $500,000 on behalf of Hanover Inn. The parties also agreed that a court of competent jurisdiction would resolve the dispute pertaining to the remaining $500,000. An additional $15,000 was paid by Safe Auto Insurance Company, on behalf of Lynch, for bodily injury.
On June 17, 2013, Good filed a Complaint, seeking relief in the nature of a declaratory judgment that the applicable liability limit is the $1,000,000 “Aggregate Limit,” resulting in an additional payment of $500,000.
Upon review, we conclude that the trial court’s interpretation is sound and free of legal error, and we affirm on this basis as to Good’s claims.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-NAMED INSURED-DRIVER LISTED ON AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE POLICY
Safe Auto Insurance Co. v. Guillermo, 2017 Pa. Super. LEXIS 711 (September 18, 2017) Dubow, J. This appeal arises from the Declaratory Judgment Action that Appellee, Safe Auto Insurance Company (“Safe Auto”), filed in Lehigh County. The trial court granted Safe Auto’s Motion for Summary Judgment, finding that Safe Auto was not obligated to provide insurance coverage to Rachel Dixon (“Dixon”) because Dixon was driving the policyholder’s car and the policyholder did not list her as a driver on his automobile insurance policy (“Safe Auto Policy”). Appellants, Priscila Jimenez and Luis Jimenez, appealed. After careful review, we affirm.
On April 29, 2013, Dixon and another driver were involved in a two-car motor vehicle accident in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Appellant Priscila Jimenez, the passenger in the other vehicle, filed a separate personal injury lawsuit seeking damages against three individuals: Dixon, the owner of the car that Dixon was driving, and the driver of the other car involved in the accident. Dixon was driving a car that her boyfriend, Rene Oriental-Guillermo, (the “Policyholder”) owned. He insured his car through Safe Auto. The Safe Auto Policy had an Unlisted Resident Driver Exclusion, which specifically excluded from coverage those individuals who lived with the Policyholder, but were not related to the policyholder and whom the Policyholder did not specifically list on the Policy (“Unlisted Resident Driver Exclusion”). In this case, Dixon lived with the Policyholder, but was not related to him and was not specifically listed as a driver of the Policyholder’s car on his Policy.
The policy language is unambiguous. Also, there is no dispute that Dixon lived with Policyholder, but is unrelated to him, and he did not list her as an additional driver on his policy. Therefore, the trial court properly found that the exclusion applied and Safe Auto was not obligated to defend Dixon.
In this case, the Policyholder failed to identify Dixon as a non-relative resident living in his household who was driving his car. Thus, he failed to meet the obligation of section 75 P.S. § 1786(f) that requires him to ensure that a driver of his car had insurance. We, therefore, reject the argument that the Unlisted Resident Driver Exclusion is contrary to the policy set forth in the MVFRL.
Auto’s coverage obligation under the Policyholder’s policy, we agree with the trial court’s conclusion that Safe Auto is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Burke v. Independence Blue Cross, 2017 Pa. LEXIS 2338 (S. Ct. October 5, 2017) Saylor, C.J. The questions presented concern whether a law requiring private insurance companies to provide coverage for treatment of autism spectrum disorders invalidates express, contractual place-of-services exclusions pertaining to the delivery of such services in schools.
Among other modifications to the Insurance Company Law of 1921, Act 62 of 2008 amended this statutory regime to require that certain group health insurance policies provide coverage for the “treatment of autism-spectrum disorders,” subject to an initial $36,000 maximum benefit annually. Per this amendment — denominated by the Insurance Department as the “Autism Coverage Law” — relevant treatment is defined to include “medically necessary pharmacy care, psychiatric care, psychological care, rehabilitative care and therapeutic care” prescribed and provided in accordance with Act 62. 40 P.S. § 64h(f)(14).
Anthony Burke is a child who has been diagnosed with an autism-spectrum disorder. As pertinent here, throughout the first six months of 2010, Anthony and his family were covered by a group health insurance policy (the “Policy”) with Appellant, Independence Blue Cross (“Insurer”), maintained through the employer of John Burke, Anthony’s father. Initially, Anthony received ABA treatment at home.
We hold that the Policy’s place-of-services exclusion is ineffective, under the Autism Recovery Law, to foreclose coverage for ABA treatment provided at school.
The order of the Superior Court is affirmed and the matter is remanded, through the Superior Court to the common pleas court, for further proceedings consistent with this opinion and the intermediate court’s previous remand directive.
Rancosky v. Wash. Nat’l Ins. Co., 2017 Pa. LEXIS 2286 (S. Ct. September 28, 2017) Baer, J. In this discretionary appeal, we consider, for the first time, the elements of a bad faith insurance claim brought pursuant to Pennsylvania’s bad faith statute found at 42 Pa.C.S. § 8371. For the reasons set forth below, we adopt the two-part test articulated by the Superior Court in Terletsky v. Prudential Property & Cas. Ins. Co., 649 A.2d 680 (Pa. Super. 1994), which provides that, in order to recover in a bad faith action, the plaintiff must present clear and convincing evidence (1) that the insurer did not have a reasonable basis for denying benefits under the policy and (2) that the insurer knew of or recklessly disregarded its lack of a reasonable basis. Additionally, we hold that proof of an insurance company’s motive of self-interest or ill-will is not a prerequisite to prevailing in a bad faith claim under Section 8371, as argued by Appellant. While such evidence is probative of the second Terletsky prong, we hold that evidence of the insurer’s knowledge or recklessness as to its lack of a reasonable basis in denying policy benefits is sufficient. Therefore, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court, which partially vacated the trial court’s judgment and remanded for further proceedings on Appellee’s bad faith claim.
Moreover, looking to the consequences of the competing interpretations of Section 8371, see 1 Pa.C.S. § 1921(c)(6), we find that Conseco’s proffered interpretation would create an unduly high threshold for bad faith claims. Given our conclusion that there is no basis to distinguish between punitive damages and other categories of damages under Section 8371, an ill-will level of culpability would limit recovery in any bad faith claim to the most egregious instances only where the plaintiff uncovers some sort of “smoking gun” evidence indicating personal animus towards the insured. We do not believe that the General Assembly intended to create a standard so stringent that it would be highly unlikely that any plaintiff could prevail thereunder when it created the remedy for bad faith. Such a construction could functionally write bad faith under Section 8371 out of the law altogether.
For the reasons set forth above, we conclude that the Superior Court’s longstanding two-pronged test, first articulated in Terletsky, presents an appropriate framework for analyzing bad faith claims under Section 8371. In particular, we conclude that the Terletsky test, and its imposition of a recklessness standard for liability under the second prong, comports with the historical development of bad faith in Pennsylvania and effectuates the intent of the General Assembly in enacting Section 8371. Accordingly, we hold that proof of an insurer’s motive of self-interest or ill-will, while potentially probative of the second prong, is not a mandatory prerequisite to bad faith recovery under Section 8371.
Because we agree with the legal test for bad faith claims under Section 8371 articulated by the Superior Court in this case and agree that the trial court misapplied that test by considering Conseco’s subjective motivation in determining whether it had a reasonable basis for denying Rancosky’s claim, we affirm the Superior Court’s ultimate disposition to vacate the trial court’s judgment and remand for further proceedings on Rancosky’s bad faith claim. However, we respectfully believe that the Superior Court erred in making a specific determination as to whether the record in this case demonstrates Conseco’s lack of a reasonable basis for denying Rancosky benefits, i.e., the first Terletsky prong. The Superior Court premised its holding in this regard upon credibility determinations the trial court made in its Rule 1925(a) opinion. However, because it is unclear to what extent the trial court’s findings on the reasonable basis prong of Terletsky were intertwined with its erroneous belief that proof of Conseco’s motive of self-interest or ill-will was required, upon remand the trial court should consider both prongs of the Terletsky test anew.
In summary, we hold that, to prevail in a bad faith insurance claim pursuant to Section 8371, a plaintiff must demonstrate, by clear and convincing evidence, (1) that the insurer did not have a reasonable basis for denying benefits under the policy and (2) that the insurer knew or recklessly disregarded its lack of a reasonable basis in denying the claim. We further hold that proof of the insurer’s subjective motive of self-interest or ill-will, while perhaps probative of the second prong of the above test, is not a necessary prerequisite to succeeding in a bad faith claim. Rather, proof of the insurer’s knowledge or reckless disregard for its lack of reasonable basis in denying the claim is sufficient for demonstrating bad faith under the second prong. For these reasons, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court, which vacated the trial court’s judgment in part and remanded for further proceedings on Appellee’s bad faith claim. On remand, the trial court should consider anew whether the above test has been met.
INSURANCE-AFFORDABLE HEALTHCARE ACT-CONTRACEPTIVE MANDATE-EXCEPTIONS
Real Alternatives, Inc. v. Secretary Department of Health and Human Services, No. 16-1275 (3rd Cir. August 4, 2017) Rendell, C.J. One of the many provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Pub. L. No. 111-148, 124 Stat. 119 (2010), requires employer-provided health insurance plans to cover an array of preventative services, including FDA-approved contraceptives, at no cost to participating employees. Employees have the option of seeking out covered medical providers and using their services, in which case they are reimbursed, or they can choose not to use them. The particular provision that includes contraceptive coverage is commonly referred to as the “Contraceptive Mandate,” and it includes a limited exemption for houses of worship and their integrated auxiliaries. See 45 C.F.R. § 147.131(a); 77 Fed. Reg. 8,725, 8,726 (Feb. 15, 2012). A wider set of religious non-profit and for-profit employers may receive an accommodation whereby they opt out of providing contraceptive coverage, with the Government then arranging for their employees to receive the coverage through third parties at no cost to, and with no participation of, the objecting employers. See 45 C.F.R. § 147.131(b)–(c); 78 Fed. Reg. 39,870, 39,874–39,875 (July 2, 2013); Zubik v. Burwell, 136 S. Ct. 1557, 1559 (2016).
Two years after we upheld this opt-out accommodation in Geneva College v. Secretary United States Department of Health and Human Services, 778 F.3d 422, 427 (3d Cir. 2015), vacated and remanded sub nom. Zubik, 136 S. Ct. at 1561, we now confront the house-of-worship exemption. This appeal presents two primary questions that again derive from the purported intersection of the Contraceptive Mandate and religion: (1) whether the Contraceptive Mandate must exempt a secular anti-abortion group with no religious affiliation, and (2) whether an employee’s religious beliefs are substantially burdened by the law’s requirement that his or her employer’s insurance plan cover contraceptives. After careful review, but without any hesitation, we answer both questions in the negative.
Appellant Real Alternatives urges that, pursuant to the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment, if a religious organization may be exempted from the Contraceptive Mandate, then non-religious entities with an identical stance on contraceptives must be exempted as well. Real Alternatives additionally challenges the Contraceptive Mandate and the criteria for the exemption as not only arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedures Act but also contrary to federal law.
The other appellants, three employees of Real Alternatives, bring individual challenges to the Contraceptive Mandate. They argue that the Contraceptive Mandate violates the Church Amendment, 42 U.S.C. § 300a–7(d). They also argue that maintaining a health insurance plan that covers contraceptives through their employer violates their religious rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000bb to 2000bb-4 (“RFRA”).
The District Court denied Appellants’ motion for summary judgment in its entirety and granted the Government’s cross-motion for summary judgment in its entirety. Because we agree with the District Court’s rulings on all of the issues raised, we will affirm.
Because we conclude that the Real Alternatives Employees have not—and cannot—show that the Contraceptive Mandate imposes a substantial burden on their religious beliefs, we need not reach the question of whether the Contraceptive Mandate is the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling governmental interest.
Yenchi v. Ameriprise Financial, Inc., 2017 Pa. LEXIS 1405 (S. Ct. June 20, 2017) Donohue, J. In this discretionary appeal, we must decide whether a fiduciary duty can arise in a consumer transaction for the purchase of a whole life insurance policy based upon the advice of a financial advisor where the consumer purchasing the policy does not cede decision -making control over the purchase to the financial advisor. We conclude that, consistent with our jurisprudence, no fiduciary duty arises in such a situation. Consequently, we reverse the Superior Court’s decision to the contrary.
In some types of relationships, a fiduciary duty exists as a matter of law. Principal and agent, trustee and cestui que trust, attorney and client, guardian and ward, and partners are recognized examples. See, e.g., McCown v. Fraser, 192 A. 674, 676-77 (Pa. 1937); Young, 279 A.2d at 763. The unique degree of trust and confidence involved in these relationships typically allows for one party to gain easy access to the property or other valuable resources of the other, thus necessitating appropriate legal protections.
We conclude that the Yenchis’ summary judgment evidentiary record falls far short of establishing a fiduciary relationship with Holland. Fiduciary duties do not arise “merely because one party relies on and pays for the specialized skill of the other party.” eToll, Inc. v. Elias/Savion Advertising, Inc., 811 A.2d 10, 23 (Pa. Super. 2003). If this were the law in Pennsylvania, “a fiduciary relationship could arise whenever one party had any marginal greater level of skill and expertise in a particular area than another party.” Id.; see generally Greenberg v. Life Ins. Co. of Virginia, 177 F.3d 507, 522 (6th Cir. 1999) (“To hold otherwise would impose fiduciary obligations on the seller of goods or services in the vast multitude of ordinary arm’s -length transactions simply on the basis that the seller possessed superior knowledge of the product being sold.”).
The record here establishes that the Yenchis made the decision to purchase Appellants’ advice and financial products. Reliance on another’s specialized skill or knowledge in making the purchase, without more, does not create a fiduciary relationship. We acknowledge that the Yenchis may have become comfortable with the Appellants’ expertise before deciding to purchase the 1996 whole life insurance policy, which is to be expected when making a financial decision. It is part of the development of any business relationship — consumer or otherwise. It does not, however, establish a fiduciary relationship. There is no evidence to establish that the Yenchis were overpowered, dominated or unduly influenced in their judgment by Holland.
For these reasons, we reverse the order of the Superior Court in part, as it pertains to the issue of fiduciary duty. The balance of the present appeal is dismissed as improvidently granted, and accordingly, the remainder of the Superior Court’s order remains intact.
Chief Justice Saylor and Justices Baer and Dougherty join the opinion. Justice Todd files a dissenting opinion in which Justice Wecht joins. Justice Mundy did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UM/UIM COVERAGE-STACKING-AFTER-ACQUIRED VEHICLE PROVISION
The insured possessed two insurance policies. One is a multi-vehicle policy and the other is a single-vehicle policy, under which they executed stacking waivers for uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. The issue is whether Standard Fire Insurance Company was required to secure a new stacking waiver from the insured when they added a 1990 Ford F-150 vehicle to their multi-vehicle policy by amending the policy’s declaration pages at the time they assumed ownership of the vehicle. At issue are interpretation of the Sackett v. Nationwide cases. The trial court had granted summary judgment in favor of the insureds and denied the insurance company’s motion for summary judgment. Vehicles, as indicated, were replaced under the continuous after-acquired vehicle provision of the standard fire policy and were not replaced by endorsement or through the purchase of new insurance. Therefore there was arguably not the requirement of execution of new waivers rejecting stacked underinsurance motorist benefits. The insureds notified their agent of the new vehicle, the 1990 Ford F-150, and requested proof of coverage before the purchase was completed. The agent then faxed a copy of the insurance card at issue and amended declarations pages reflecting coverage of the new vehicle at an increased premium. As in the Bumbarger case, the after-acquired-vehicle provision in the standard fire policy is simply inapplicable. Therefore we need not consider whether it is continuous or finite. Pursuant to Sackett I, Sackett III, and Bumbarger, the insured’s addition of the 1990 Ford F-150 to the policy constituted a new “purchase” of UM/UIM coverage under Section 1738 of the Financial Responsibility Law and required the execution of a new UM/UIM stacking waiver. Pergolese v. The Standard Fire Insurance Company, 2017 Pa. Super. 96 (April 11, 2017) Ford Elliott, P.J.E., dissent by Stabile, J.
Windows v. Erie Ins. Exch., 2017 Pa. Super. LEXIS 309 (May 1, 2017) Moulton, J. Erie Insurance Exchange (“Erie”) appeals from the February 24, 2016 judgment entered in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas in favor of Howard Windows, Jr. and Eleanor Windows (“Homeowners”). We reverse and remand for further proceedings.
This matter arises from Erie’s denial of an insurance claim made by the Homeowners following the infiltration of raw sewage into their home in May 2012. Erie denied the claim, and on May 2, 2013, the Homeowners filed a complaint, alleging that Erie breached its policy. On March 9, 2015, Erie filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the policy’s “general exclusion for water damage unambiguously excludes coverage for the Homeowners’ losses because the back up of raw sewage and water through the Warner Alley sewer system and the drain in the Homeowners’ basement contributed to their losses.”
On summary judgment, Erie argued that the water damage exclusion unambiguously precluded coverage for the Homeowners’ losses. We disagree.
Here, the water-damage exclusion in the Homeowners’ insurance policy provides that losses caused by “water or sewage which backs up through sewers and drains” are excluded from coverage. The policy does not define the term “backs up.”
Based on the language of the Erie policy, and on the limited case law interpreting similar language, we conclude that the water-damage exclusion is subject to more than one reasonable interpretation. Because the provision is ambiguous, Erie failed to meet its burden at summary judgment of proving that the Homeowners’ loss was necessarily excluded.
FEDERAL EMPLOYEES HEALTH BENEFITS ACT OF 1959-SUBROGATION
Coventry Health Care of Missouri, Inc. v. Jodie Nevils, 581 U.S. ___ (April 18, 2017) Ginsburg, J. In the Federal Employees Health Benefits Act of 1959 (FEHBA), 5 U. S. C. §8901 et seq., Congress authorized the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to contract with private carriers for federal employees’ health insurance. §8902(a), (d). FEHBA contains a provision expressly preempting state law. §8902(m)(1). That provision reads: “The terms of any contract under this chapter which relate to the nature, provision, or extent of coverage or benefits (including payments with respect to benefits) shall supersede and preempt any State or local law, or any regulation issued thereunder, which relates to health insurance or plans.” Contracts OPM negotiates with private carriers provide for reimbursement and subrogation. Reimbursement requires an insured employee who receives payment from another source (e.g., the proceeds yielded by a tort claim) to return healthcare costs earlier paid out by the carrier. Subrogation involves transfer of the right to a third-party payment from the insured employee to the carrier, who can then pursue the claim against the third party. Several States, however, Missouri among them, bar enforcement of contractual subrogation and reimbursement provisions. The questions here presented: Does FEHBA’s express-preemption prescription, §8902(m)(1), override state law prohibiting subrogation and reimbursement; and if §8902(m)(1) has that effect, is the statutory prescription consistent with the Supremacy Clause, U. S. Const., Art. VI, cl. 2? We hold, contrary to the decision of the Missouri Supreme Court, that contractual subrogation and reimbursement prescriptions plainly “relate to . . . payments with respect to benefits,” §8902(m)(1); therefore, by statutory instruction, they override state law barring subrogation and reimbursement. We further hold, again contrary to the Missouri Supreme Court, that the regime Congress enacted is compatible with the Supremacy Clause. Section 8902(m)(1) itself, not the contracts OPM negotiates, triggers the federal preemption. As Congress directed, where FEHBA contract terms “relate to the nature, provision, or extent of coverage or benefits (including payments with respect to benefits),” §8902(m)(1) ensures that those terms will be uniformly enforceable nationwide, free from state interference.
Pa. Manufacturers’ Ass’n Ins. Co. v. Johnson Matthey, 2017 Pa. Commw. LEXIS 115 (April 21, 2017) Colins, S.J. This case is a petition for review filed by Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association Insurance Company (Insurer) against Johnson Matthey Inc. (JMI) and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) seeking a declaratory judgment that it has no obligation to defend or indemnify JMI with respect to a lawsuit filed by DEP against JMI seeking recovery of costs for cleanup of environmental contamination. Before this Court is Insurer’s motion for summary relief. For the reasons set forth below, we deny Insurer’s motion. The central issue raised by Insurer’s motion is what event must take place within the policy period to trigger coverage under Insurer’s CGL policies. The trigger of coverage under an “occurrence” insurance policy is ordinarily the first manifestation of the injury that is alleged to have been caused by the insured. We therefore conclude that the environmental contamination claims at issue here fall within the J.H. France Refractories Co. exception to the first manifestation rule and that coverage under Insurer’s April 1, 1969 to April 1, 1970 and April 1, 1970 to April 1, 1971 policies is triggered if undetected environmental contamination occurred during the policy period. Because the complaint against JMI in the Underlying Action alleges gradual contamination that began before and continued through the policy periods and Insurer has not shown that the contamination did not occur in the policy periods or that it first manifested before the policy periods, it is not entitled to a declaratory judgment that it has no duty to defend or indemnify JMI. Accordingly, the Court enters the following order denying Insurer’s motion for summary relief.
General Refractories Co. v. First State Ins. Co., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 6984 (April 21, 2017) Vanaskie, C.J. Today we must decide which of two companies will bear costs associated with a staggering number of asbestos claims. These companies—a historical manufacturer of asbestos-containing products and its insurer—dispute the rightful allocation of asbestos-related losses under thirty-year-old excess insurance policies. While the policies are dated, the consequences of our interpretation are immediate both to the parties at hand and to those insurers and insureds whose relationships are similarly governed. The chief issue on appeal is whether a policy exclusion that disclaims losses “arising out of asbestos” will prevent a manufacturer from obtaining indemnification for thousands of negotiated settlements with plaintiffs who have suffered adverse health effects from exposure to its asbestos-containing products. The answer hinges on whether the language of the exclusion is ambiguous. After a bench trial, the District Court found that the phrase “arising out of asbestos” contained latent ambiguity because the exclusion could reasonably be read to exclude only losses related to raw asbestos, as opposed to losses related to asbestos-containing products. We disagree. The phrase “arising out of,” when used in a Pennsylvania insurance exclusion, unambiguously requires “but for” causation. Because the losses relating to the underlying asbestos suits would not have occurred but for asbestos, raw or within finished products, we will reverse the judgment of the District Court and enter judgment for Travelers.
INSURANCE-BAD FAITH-TITLE INSURANCE
Michael v. Stock, 2017 Pa. Super. LEXIS 245 (April 11, 2017) Solano, J. This case deals with bad faith in the unusual context of title insurance. At issue is an amended third party complaint. The descriptions of property in an insurance policy must be construed with reference to the insured’s reasonable expectations with respect to the coverage being purchased. Most cases deal with fire and casualty policies, but the court was aware of no grounds upon which the results should differ for title insurance. The court reversed the grant of summary judgment and sent the case back to trial on the bad faith claim of the Stock’s.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UIM/UM COVERAGE-REJECTION FORM-COMPLIANCE
Alisha L. Ford v. Am. States Ins. Co., 2017 Pa. LEXIS 444 (S. Ct. February 22, 2017) Baer, J. Section 1731 of the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (“MVFRL”) governs underinsured motorist (“UIM”) and uninsured motorist coverage. 75 Pa.C.S. § 1731. Pertinent to this appeal, the MVFRL requires insurers to offer insureds UIM coverage. Id. at § 1731(a). Insurers need to inform named insureds that they may reject UIM coverage by signing a written rejection form contained in Subsection 1731(c) of the MVFRL. Id. § 1731(c). Subsection 1731(c.1) of the MVFRL states that any UIM coverage rejection form that does not “specifically comply” with Section 1731 of the MVFRL is void and that, if an insurer fails to produce a valid UIM coverage rejection form, then UIM coverage shall be equal to the policy’s bodily injury liability limits. Id. at § 1731(c.1). We granted allowance of appeal in this matter to determine whether an insurer’s UIM coverage rejection form does “specifically comply” with Section 1731 of the MVFRL if the insurer’s form is not a verbatim reproduction of the statutory rejection form found in Subsection 1731(c) of the MVFRL but, rather, differs from the statutory form in an inconsequential manner. For the reasons that follow, we hold that a UIM coverage rejection form specifically complies with Section 1731 of the MVFRL even if the form contains de minimis deviations from the statutory form. Because the Superior Court reached the proper result in this case, we affirm that court’s judgment.
As Appellant noted in her complaint, the UIM coverage rejection form that Mother signed and that American States relied upon when Appellant sought UIM benefits tracks the statutory rejection form found in Subsection 1731(c) of the MVFRL, save for a few minor deviations. The form at issue in this case references “motorists” instead of “motorist” in its title line and first sentence, and it injects the word “motorists” between “Underinsured” and “coverage” in the second sentence.
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION-SUBROGATION-INSURANCE COMPANY AS PLAINTIFF WITH REAL INTEREST IN LAWSUIT
Because employee did not bring suit against third party, Hartford had a right to bring suit on behalf of the employee. Hartford has a real interest in the lawsuit because it has the statutory right of subrogation to the employee’s recovery against the third party tortfeasor to the extent of compensation payable under the Workers’ Compensation Act by Hartford. It does not matter that the employee himself is not suing. Since the employee has not sued the third party tortfeasor, Hartford Insurance Company is the entity as controlling litigation. Therefore Hartford is a party to this litigation and the representative of Hartford may verify the complaint. Hartford Insurance Company v. Kamara, 2017 Pa. Super. LEXIS 84 (February 10, 2017).
Babcock & Wilcox v. American Nuclear Insurance, 131 A.3d 445 (Pa. 2015)
The Superior Court was reversed by the Supreme Court and the trial court’s judgment was reinstated. An insured does not forfeit insurance coverage by settling a tort claim without the consent of its insurer, when the insurer defends the insured subject to a reservation of rights, asserting that the claims may not be covered by the policy. The broad duties to defend is mutually beneficial as it protects the insured “from the cost of defense” while allowing the insured “to control the defense to protect itself against the potential indemnity exposure.” We encourage insurance to seek declaratory relief to eliminate uncertainty regarding their responsibility for continued defense and ultimately for indemnity coverage. In this case after an extensive trial, the jury determined that the settlement was fair and reasonable from the perspective of a reasonably prudent person in the same position of insureds and in light of the totality of the circumstances. This is the proper standard to adopt to apply in a reservation of right case when an insured settles following the insurer’s refusal to consent to settlement. The Superior Court erred by requiring an insured to demonstrate bad faith when the insured accepts the settlement offer in a reservation of rights case.
INSURANCE – HEALTH INSURANCE – SCHOOL BASED APPLIED BEHAVIORAL ANALYSIS, AUTISM – COVERAGE OF MEDICALLY NECESSARY TREATMENT FOR AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS
Burke v. Independence Blue Cross, 128 A.3d 223 (Pa. Super. 2015). The superior court agreed with the trial court that Act 62 requires coverage of medically necessary treatment for autism spectrum disorders including applied behavioral analysis, regardless of whether it is otherwise excluded by policy. Mootness was raised in issue but the court agreed that the issue was of such great public importance that it should be addressed. We agree with the trial court that there is an inherent ambiguity or conflict between the Act and the “general exclusion.” Where there is an ambiguity the court looks to legislative intent, which controls. Here Pennsylvania’s Act 62 is specifically addressed in the treatment of autism spectrum disorders including services in schools or an institution.
INSURANCE-COMMERCIAL-EXCLUSIONS-“PRIOR PUBLICATION” EXCLUSION
Urban Outfitters contended that the trial court erred in finding that Navajo Nation’s trademark infringement allegations fall under Hanover Insurance policy’s “prior publication” exclusions. Both sides acknowledge an absence of binding authority. The District Court was affirmed in Hanover Insurance Company v. Urban Outfitters, Inc., 806 F.3d 761 (3rd Cir. 2015). There is no binding authority as to what constitutes a “fresh wrong.” Since Hanover was not responsible for Urban Outfitters’ liability insurance coverage until 16 months after the first publication of the alleged infringement, an exclusion would apply unless the underlying complaint contains allegations of “fresh wrongs” that occurred during Hanover’s policy periods. It is clear from Navajo Nation’s complaint that Urban Outfitters’ advertisements, which predated Hanover’s coverage period, share a common objective with those that followed. Thus, the court concluded that the latter ads were not “fresh wrongs.” The “prior publication” exclusions apply, and Hanover has no duty to defend Urban Outfitters in the underlying action. The “prior publication” exclusion prevents a continuing tortfeasor from passing the risk for its misconduct onto an unwitting insurer. Taking Navajo Nation’s underlying allegations as true, Urban Outfitters engaged in similar liability-triggering behavior both before and during Hanover’s coverage period. Therefore the exclusion applies.
INSURANCE-LIFE INSURANCE-FIDUCIARY RELATIONSHIP-EVIDENCE-UNFAIR TRADE PRACTICES AND CONSUMER PROTECTION LAW-RETROACTIVITY-DECEPTIVE PRACTICES
Yenchi v. Ameriprise Financial, Inc., 123 A.3d 1071 (Pa. Super. 2015). Insurance company won at the trial court level. Life insurance was sold with various promises that were not true. Where the offer to sell an insurance product as premised upon the results of an allegedly independent financial analysis, a question of fact may arise regarding whether the financial analyst/insurance salesperson incurs a fiduciary duty. Here, the insureds gave up life insurance and used proceeds to purchase other products for their retirement. An insurance relationship can involve fiduciary duty. Fiduciary relationships are not confined to any one relationship. The existence of a confidential relationship is fact sensitive and cannot normally be decided as a matter of law. It is significant that the salesperson cultivated a relationship with the insureds first as a financial advisor, not an insurance salesperson. A plaintiff may establish a confidential relationship by demonstrating “weakness, dependence or trust, justifiably reposed.” Insured sought to put into evidence as to the suitability of the insurance policies sold. The court kept this evidence out because of its ruling on fiduciary duty. The court reversed this as well. The exclusion of this evidence could have affected the verdict in the fraudulent misrepresentation and UTPCPL claims. The UTPCPL cannot be applied retroactively. The court reversed the grant of summary judgment in favor of the insurance companies regarding the breach of fiduciary duty claim. The court remanded for new trial on fraudulent misrepresentation and UTPCPL claims.
INSURANCE-CANCELLATION-LICENSE SUSPENSION IMPOSED FOR UNDERAGE ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. Commissioner, 124 A.3d 775 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2015). The Insurance Commissioner properly concluded that Act 31 of the Crimes Code prohibits an insurance company from canceling an automobile insurance policy based on license suspension imposed for underage alcohol consumption. The Commonwealth Court affirmed the decision of the Insurance Commissioner. State Farm informed the insured that it was canceling her policy because of the suspension and not because of any misrepresentation. The situation might have been different if there was misrepresentation by the insured.
STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS-ERISA-PLAN NOTIFICATION
Mirza v. Insurance Administrator of America, Inc., 800 F.3d 129 (3rd Cir. 2015). Regulations implementing ERISA provided when the plan administrator denies a request for benefits, it must set forth a “description of the plan’s review procedures and the time limits applicable to such procedures, including a statement of the claimant’s right to bring a civil action.” The ERISA plan at issue contained a one-year deadline for filing a civil action. In its denial letter, that one year was not mentioned. The court held that the one-year time period must be set forth and that the appropriate remedy for this regulatory violation is to set aside the plan’s time limit and apply the limitations period from the most analogous state-law cause of action.
UNFAIR TRADE PRACTICES AND CONSUMER PROTECTION LAW-LIFE INSURANCE-FRAUD-COMMON LAW FRAUD
Boehm v. Riversource Life Insurance Company, 117 A.3d 308 (Pa. Super. 2015). This case involved a claim under the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law and for common law fraud. The case is governed before there was an amendment to the Unfair Trade Practices law adding a catch-all provision. Using a preponderance of the evidence standard, the trial court found that defendants purposely and intentionally misrepresented the terms of the policy. After hearing all the evidence the trial court found that defendants violated the UTPCPL where the policy has issued and delivered differed materially from the policy as sold, the defendants purposely and intentionally misrepresented the terms of the policy, and intentionally failed to explain to the plaintiffs that the premium amount had materially changed. The insurance company argued that the clear and convincing standard applies to both common law fraud claims and claims brought under the “catch-all” provision of the UTPCPL. The Superior Court disagreed. Because this case was brought before the catch-all provision, to establish a claim for common law fraud, the elements must be proven by clear and convincing evidence. The trial court correctly applied a preponderance of the evidence standard to the plaintiff’s UTPCPL claim. The trial court was not bound by the jury’s previous finding, using a heightened standard, that defendants did not engage in fraudulent conduct. Life insurance policies are contracts of adhesion. The insured is under no duty to read the policy. Courts must be alert to the fact that expectations of the buying public are in large measure created by the insurance industry itself. The insurance industry uses obscure language and the buyer is very dependent on what the salesperson says. It is not unreasonable for consumers to rely upon the expectations of the salespeople who are supposed to be experts. Justifiable reliance is typically a question of fact for the fact finder to decide. The court looked at the evidence very closely and said that the Boehms justifiably relied on Day’s (salesperson’s) misrepresentations as to the contents of the policy. Since the plaintiffs were alleging fraud in the execution of a life insurance contract, the parole evidence rule does not apply and they justifiably relied on Day’s misrepresentations. Plaintiff must demonstrate an ascertainable loss as a result of the prohibited conduct. Plaintiffs discovered that MetLife had enrolled them in an automatic withdrawal plan without their knowledge or consent. The correct measure of damages is the amount necessary to place the insureds in the position they would have been if the bargain had been honored, i.e., $200,000 total coverage for $50.00 per month plus an initial dump-in of $5,400. In spite of Day’s promises, the actual amount necessary fully to fund the policy at guaranteed rates is $240.00 per month, not $50.00 per month. The trial court awarded $125,000, or approximately $10,000 less than was requested by plaintiffs, which is acceptable. The court also noted that Day’s conduct was fairly outrageous and intentional. The court was correct not to discount the award to present value. The loss of the promised death benefit due to the fraudulent conduct is a present loss, not a future loss. Attorney’s fee award at $165,000 with costs of over $5,000 was also acceptable. An abuse of discretion standard would apply in reviewing the attorney’s fee. A review of the fee petition indicates the court attempted to remove all non-UTPCPL time. The case was complex. Counsel fees for Ken Behrend at $400.00 per hour and $275.00 for his associate were reasonable. This was not a windfall.
INSURANCE-DISABILITY POLICY-TOTAL DISABILITY-BAD FAITH
Mohney v. American General Life Insurance Company, 116 A.3d 1123 (Pa. Super. 2015). Timothy A. Mohney lost his non-jury case against American General Life Insurance Company, successor to U.S. Life Credit Life Insurance Company. The court vacated the judgment and remanded the case for new trial. Mohney purchased disability and life insurance from U.S. Life. The policy defined total disability. Mohney suffered a back injury in a traffic accident and was unable to work as a coal miner. The insurance company refused to pay the claim, and Mohney filed suit. The question under the bad faith law was whether the insurance company had acted in bad faith. The court defined bad faith and noted that there is a two-part test: the insurer did not have a reasonable basis for denying benefits under the policy, and (2) the insurer knew of or reasonably disregarded its lack of reasonable basis in denying the claim. The appellate court found that U.S. Life had no reasonable basis to terminate Mohney’s benefits. At best, there may have been a defense that Mohney could perform light duty jobs. Nobody ever advised U.S. Life that Mohney was acutally capable of performing the identified jobs. As a result, U.S. Life had no reasonable basis to terminate Mohney’s benefits on the ground that he was no longer “totally disabled.” The the insurance company investigator acted knowingly or recklessly. The misrepresentations by the adjustor constitute evidence that his investigation was neither honest nor objective. He focused solely on those parts of the questionnaire that supported denial of the claim while ignoring important limitations recognized by the doctor which supported a contrary decision. As a result, the case was sent back to the lower court for a new trial.
INSURANCE-COMMERCIAL LIABILITY INSURANCE POLICY-UMBRELLA POLICY-EXCLUSION-EMPLOYERS LIABILITY-SEPARATION-OF-INSUREDS CLAUSE
Employee of restaurant falls down stairs and sues the owner. The owner is insured by an umbrella commercial policy and denies coverage under an exclusion that says there is no coverage pertaining to the liability for injury to an employee of the insured arising out of and in the course of employment by the insured. The suit was brought against the additional insureds, not the employee’s employer. A separation-of-insureds clause indicates that insurance applies separately to each insured against whom claim is made. Who was “the insured”? The insured is the entity against whom the claim is made. The court concluded that the employer’s liability exclusion under the umbrella policy is ambiguous. The ambiguous exclusionary language pertains only to claims asserted by employees of “the insured” against whom the claim is directed. This understanding gave further support by reference to the policy’s separation-of-insureds provision. Since the property owners who have been sued are not the employers of the restaurant employee who was injured, the employer’s liability exclusion is inapplicable. There would therefore be coverage. Mutual Benefit Insurance Company v. Politsopoulos, 115 A.3d 844 (Pa. 2015).
Wolfe v. Ross, 115 A.3d 880 (Pa. Super. 2015). Mr. Ross was the host of a graduation party at his residence where alcoholic beverages were served to minors, including Kevin. Kevin left the party drunk on a dirt bike owned by Mr. Ross’s son, Justin. He lost control of the vehicle, and suffered fatal injuries. State Farm, Mr. Ross’s homeowners carrier, refused to defend the claim and denied coverage based on the policy’s exclusion for injuries arising out of the maintenance and use of a motor vehicle owned by an insured. The Superior Court agreed based upon prior case law. The motor vehicle played an active role in and was the instrumentality of decedent’s fatal injuries. The exclusion is unambiguous. Parties may contractually limit their liability and impose conditions so long as those policies do not violate statute or public policy. There is nothing in the policy that violates statute or public policy and the vehicle exclusion operates to exclude homeowners coverage for the tragic death of decedent.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-UIM COVERAGE-FOSTER CHILD-WARD OF THE INSURED
Rourke v. Pennsylvania National Mutual Casualty Insurance, 116 A.3d 87 (Pa. Super. 2015). Frederick Rickard was severely injured while riding as a passenger in a vehicle driven by his friend, Chad Odonel. Frederick was 19 years of age at the time. He had been a foster child of Rourke. The Rourkes were insured by Penn National. The Rourkes were named as insureds under a personal auto policy. Rourke requested that Frederick be added as an insured driver under the policy. Subsequently, Rourke made a claim for UIM coverage. Penn National denied the claim. The court found that coverage might apply. The lower court erred when it granted Penn National’s motion for judgment on the pleadings to the extent that it held that Frederick was not a ward of the Rourkes’. The trial court abused its discretion in granting Penn National’s motion for summary judgment on the reasonable expectation of coverage issue. The reasonable expectation of the insured is central. If the policy is ambiguous, then the reasonable expectation of the insured becomes an issue. The reasonable expectations doctrine exists in part to protect non-commercial insureds from both deception and non-apparent terms.
INSURANCE-BAD FAITH-PUNITIVE DAMAGES
This is an insurance dispute between Allstate and Jared Wolfe. The question is whether punitive damages awarded against an insured in a personal injury suit are recoverable in a later breach of contract or bad faith suit against the insurer. It is Pennsylvania’s public policy that insurers cannot insure against punitive damages and we therefore predict that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will answer that question in the negative. In other words, punitive damages cannot be recovered in a bad faith lawsuit, notwithstanding the underlying result that the insurance company was guilty of bad faith damages. Wolfe v. Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Company, 790 F.3d 487 (3rd Cir. 2015).
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-1718-NAMED DRIVER
Byoung Suk An v. Victoria Fire & Cas. Co., 113 A.3d 1283 (Pa. Super. 2015). Byoung Suk An filed a lawsuit in connection with a motor vehicle accident in which he was injured. The vehicle was owned by Walker and operated by Gilmore. Walker had an insurance policy that excluded from coverage anybody other than the named driver. Gilmore was not a named driver. It was asserted by plaintiff victim that the named driver exclusion in the automobile policy is in violation of the Financial Responsibility Law, 1718(c) and is void as against public policy. Section 1718(c) addresses policies wherein an insured specifically excludes the driver who would otherwise be covered from benefits under the policy. Instead, Walker’s policy provided coverage only for the driver named in the policy. Walker received a big discount for this exclusion. The “named driver only” policy is not contemplated by Section 1718(c). Therefore, the law is not applicable to this case. The court also found that the provision was not void as against public policy. “Thus, we hold that the provision of low-cost, affordable policies in return for motor vehicle liability coverage of only the named driver, and the concomitant risk reduction, does not violate public policy.” At 1292. Summary judgment was properly granted to the insurance company.
INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-RESERVATION OF RIGHTS LETTER-TIMELINESS
Erie Insurance Exchange v. Lobenthal, 114 A.3d 832 (Pa. Super. 2015). The trial court granted summary judgment for Erie Insurance Exchange. Boyd filed a tort claim against defendants Lobenthal and Miller because Boyd was injured in a motor vehicle accident. Boyd suffered injuries as a result of a car accident while a passenger in a car driven by defendant Miller. It was claimed that Lobenthal was negligent because she permitted the possession and consumption of controlled substances by Miller at a property owned by Lobenthal’s parents which was covered by Boyd’s insurance policy. Some of the decision involved whether the insurance company sent a proper reservation of rights letter, which clearly it did not. The reservation of rights letter was addressed solely to the named insureds. The court would not impute notice to anyone else. The court refused to attribute notice even with respect to someone living with her parents, the latter having been served with the reservation of rights letter. Further, the reservation of rights letter was untimely. Michaela Lobenthal, as a defendant, was entitled to notice of Erie’s reservation of its rights to disclaim liability. Notice to her parents, the named insureds, and to insurance defense counsel provided by Erie was ineffective as to Michaela. In addition, Erie’s reservation of rights letter sent approximately seven (7) months after the complaint was filed, was untimely.
INSURANCE-FIDUCIARY LIABILITY POLICY FOR ERISA-EXCLUSIONS-FRAUD, CRIMINAL ACTS OR OMISSIONS
CIGNA Corp. v. Executive Risk Indemnity, Inc., 111 A.3d 204 (Pa. Super. 2015). In federal court in a class action, ERISA violations were found. As a result, appellant sought a declaration of coverage under a fiduciary liability policy for ERISA violations. Coverage was denied by the insurance company under a policy exclusion for deliberate fraud or criminal acts or omissions. Appellant challenged the trial court’s application of the fraudulent act’s exclusion and the Superior Court affirmed. Appellant’s conduct, including affirmative efforts at concealment and intentionally misleading representations that the benefits under the previous plan would not be disturbed, would clearly qualify as fraudulent under Pennsylvania law. Further, the remedy fashioned by the court showed that it considered appellant’s actions as fraudulent. The federal court’s finding of fraud would constitute a final judgment. Therefore the wrongful acts exclusion of the policy applies and there is no coverage.