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One Word Makes All the Difference: PA Supreme Court to Weigh In on UIM Rejection Form

June 8, 2016

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May 24, 2016, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed to review a relatively discreet issue regarding the validity of an underinsured motorist coverage (“UIM”) rejection form in <a href="http://blog.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Ford-Case.pdf">Ford v. American States Insurance Company</a>.  Specifically, the question before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is whether an insurer’s UIM rejection form “specifically complies” with Pennsylvania’s Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (“MVFRL”).
The underlying facts of the case arise out of a 2013 motor vehicle accident.  Alisha Ford was seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident and sought UIM coverage from her mother’s insurer, American States Insurance Company (“American”).  American rejected Ford’s request for UIM benefits because Ford’s mother explicitly rejected UIM coverage.  Ford’s main contention is that her mother’s rejection form is invalid because the rejection form does not “specifically comply” with § 1731(c) of the MVFRL, which provides the form to be used in the context of rejection UIM coverage.
The interesting part of Ford’s contention is that the rejection form signed by her mother and the form language in § 1731(c) only differs by <em><u>one</u></em> word.  Specifically, the rejection form that Ford’s mother signed states, in part, that “Underinsured <em><u>motorist</u></em> coverage protects me and relatives….”  Conversely, § 1731(c)’s rejection form states, in pertinent part, “Uninsured coverage protects me and relatives…”  Accordingly, the only difference between the two forms is the inclusion of the term “motorist.”
Both the trial court and the Superior Court found that the addition of the word “motorist” had no impact on the validity of the UIM rejection form.  The Supreme Court’s decision on the issue will come down to whether strict compliance with § 1731(c) is required in order for a UIM rejection form to be valid.  It will be interesting for sure to see how the Supreme Court rules in this regard.
Thanks to Erin Connoly for her contribution.
For more information, contact Denise Fontana Ricci at dricci@wcmlaw.com.
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