INSURANCE-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAW-FIRST PARTY BENEFITS-UNLICENSED DRIVER EXCLUSION

August 22nd, 2022 by Rieders Travis in Insurance

Nationwide Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co. v. Castaneda, 2022 Pa. Dist. & Cnty. Dec. LEXIS 936 (C.P. Dauphin July 14, 2022) (McNally, J.)  In this matter, the Automobile Insurer seeks that this Court grant judgment in its favor and issue a decree finding that it is not obligated, under an Automobile Policy issued to its Policyholder, to provide first party medical benefits to the Policyholder’s daughter because she was an unlicensed driver driving her mother’s vehicle at the time of the accident. The Driver, who has filed a counterclaim on her own behalf and on behalf of a putative class of similarly situated drivers, seeks partial summary judgment declaring that the Insurer’s denial of first party medical benefits under the Policy’s “Unlicensed Driver Exclusion” is void as against public policy. The Driver additionally seeks, on her own behalf and on behalf of the putative class, compensatory relief in the form of first party benefits, interest, attorneys’ fees, costs and treble damages. For the reasons set forth below, this Court finds that the Insurer is not obligated to pay first party medical benefits to the Driver and thus grants judgment in favor of the Insurer and dismisses the Driver’s claims. In conclusion, this Court agrees with Nationwide that there is no dispute that its denial of first party medical benefits to the Driver falls within the unambiguous scope of Unlicensed Driver Exclusion. Furthermore, this Court finds that MVFRL Section 1718 does not create an exhaustive list of reasons an insurer may cite to exclude first party medical benefits but is rather only one pronouncement of a number of permissible exclusions found in the MVFRL and common law. Finally, the Unlicensed Driver Exclusion also does not violate the public policy of this Commonwealth, which is embodied by the MVFRL and court decisions interpreting its application. Because this Court is granting judgment in Nationwide’s favor, this Court need not address the Driver’s counterclaim requesting attorneys’ fees, interest and treble damages under MVFRL Sections 1716 and 1797(b), which rely upon a finding that the Driver has a valid claim under the Policy for first party medical benefits.

 

Nationwide Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co. v. Castaneda, 2022 Pa. Dist. & Cnty. Dec. LEXIS 936 (C.P. Dauphin July 14, 2022) (McNally, J.)

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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