INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-CHOICE OF LAW-UNDERINSURANCE-GAP INSURANCE

January 11th, 2023 by Rieders Travis in Insurance

Watts v. Pekin Ins., 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 225463 (M.D. Pa. December 14, 2022) (Brann, D.J.)  Motion of State Farm for summary judgment granted as to claim for underinsurance.  The insurance policy in this case was delivered in Indiana, and the declarations page listed the policyholder’s address in Columbus, Indiana.  At the time the policy was executed, the insureds resided in Indiana and the car was located in Indiana.  The policy defined underinsurance as gap insurance.  What that means is that underinsurance is a vehicle for which the sum of the limits under all bodily injury liability bonds or policies applicable at the time of the accident is either (1) less than the limit of liability for this coverage, or (2) reduced by payments to persons, other than insureds injured in the accident to less than the limit of liability for the coverage. Subsequently, the Watts moved to Pennsylvania.  They did not register the car in Pennsylvania.  They apparently moved to Pennsylvania for a job.  They were rear-ended in Williamsport by Richard Piger.  Plaintiffs filed a claim for underinsurance, but the claim was denied because the coverage limits of Piger’s insurance matched plaintiff’s underinsurance coverage from Pekin and under the policy Piger was not an underinsured motorist.  The debate was whether Pennsylvania or Indiana law applied.  The Financial Responsibility Law addresses underinsurance but is not gap coverage.  The Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law does not seek to extend its provisions to non-residents with no connection to Pennsylvania.  The court found that Pennsylvania has a materially greater interest in the outcome of this matter.  Plaintiffs were residents of Pennsylvania at the time of the accident.  Watts was employed in Pennsylvania and Watts paid taxes in Pennsylvania.  Indiana has a counter-veiling interest as well.  The court, however, found that, in the absence of a choice of law part of the policy, the policy’s implicit selection of Indiana law therefore defined the choice of law.  Indiana law was still therefore governing the policy.  After going through all the factors, the court determined that plaintiffs had not established all three prongs required to disregard the policy’s implicit choice of Indiana law and Indiana law applied to the policy.  Under Indiana law, there is no right to get any more money under underinsurance.

Attorney Cliff Rieders

Attorney Cliff RiedersCliff Rieders is a Nationally Board Certified Trial Lawyer practicing personal injury law. A large part of his practice involves multi-district litigation, including cases related to pharmaceuticals, vitamin supplements and medical devices. He is admitted in several state and federal courts, as well as the Supreme Court of the United States. Rieders is the past regional president of the Federal Bar Association and is a life member of the distinguished American Law Institute, which promulgates proposed rules adopted by many state courts. He is a past president of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, formerly Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association. As a founder of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, he served on the Board for 15 years.

Not only has Rieders held many highly esteemed, leadership positions, he authored legislation related to the Patient Safety Authority and the Mcare Act, which governs medical and hospital liability actions in Pennsylvania. He authored texts upon which both practitioners and judges rely, including Pennsylvania Malpractice Laws and Forms, and Financial Responsibility Law Issues in Pennsylvania, the latter governing auto and truck collisions in Pennsylvania. In addition, he wrote several books on the practice of law in Pennsylvania regarding wrongful death and survivor actions, insurance bad faith, legal malpractice claims and worker rights, among others. Rieders also serves as a resource to practitioners as a regular speaker for Celesq, an arm of the world’s largest legal publisher, Thomson Reuters West Publishing.

As recognition of his wide range of contribution to his profession and of his dedication to protecting the rights of his clients, he received numerous awards, among them the George F. Douglas Amicus Curiae Award, the Milton D. Rosenberg Award, the B’nai B’rith Justice Award, and awards of recognition from the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers. [ Attorney Bio ]

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