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Hitting the Road: How Two Separate Motorist Policies Intertwine (PA)

November 7, 2019

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On October 31, 2019, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed the order of the lower court granting Pennsylvania National Mutual Casualty Insurance Company’s (“Penn National”) motion for summary judgement in <a href="http://www.pacourts.us/assets/opinions/Superior/out/j-a24028-18m%20-%2010420407981568999.pdf#search=%22%27Superior%2bCourt%27%22">Petra v. Pennsylvania National Mutual Casualty Insurance Company</a> (“Lawsuit”).  The Court reaffirmed the previous ruling in <u>Gallagher v. Geico Indemnity Co.</u> that individuals cannot recover stacked UIM coverage under two separate policies.

Donald C. Petra (“Petra”) was involved in a motor vehicle accident which caused him to be flung from his motorcycle.  Petra suffered several injuries from this accident.  Petra’s motorcycle was insured through a policy by Progressive Advanced Insurance Co. (“Motorcycle Policy”).  However, Petra waived underinsured motorist (“UIM”) coverage under this policy.  Petra therefore sought coverage for his person under a separate policy which covered his minivan (“Minivan Policy”).  The Minivan Policy issued by Penn National included a “household exclusion” which excluded UIM coverage for injuries sustained while operating a vehicle other than the one issued under the Minivan Policy.  Petra argued that this exclusion does not apply because he suffered injuries when he hit the pavement, not when he was occupying a vehicle insured under the Minivan Policy.  Both parties filed motions for summary judgment.  The lower court ruled in favor of Penn National’s motion for summary judgment and the Superior Court affirmed.

The Superior Court stated that the household exclusion was unenforceable since the exclusion acted as a waiver of stacked UIM coverage.  Petra would have had to not sign the waiver of UIM stacking that Section 1738 of the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (“MVFRL”) required.

This cluster of cases further reinforces the fact that coverage policies may overlap and mix and match in certain cases.  Language in the policy is key to making sure that each policy stands on its own if so intended.  Also, this case shows the importance of making sure that all relevant issues are preserved for appeal because you never know how a court may rule down the line.

Thanks to Nicholas Wight for his contribution to this post.  Please email <a href="mailto:gcoats@wcmlaw.com">Georgia Coats</a> with any questions.

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