Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Twombly/Iqbal Standards Applied to Dismiss Bad Faith Complaint

In the recent Eastern Federal District Court of Pennsylvania case of Jones v. Allstate, No. 17-00648 (E.D. Pa. June 19, 2017 Pappert, J.), the Court applied the mandates of Twombly/Iqbal in granting the carrier's motion to dismiss the Plaintiff's bad faith claim filed against Allstate in a motor vehicle accident case.  The Plaintiff was granted leave to amend.

Quoting colorful language from the Iqbal case, the court noted that, while a Federal Court Complaint need not provide detailed facts, it must provide "more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation."

Anyone wishing to review this decision, may click this LINK.

I send thanks to Attorney Kristin H. Jones of the Philadelphia office of Pepper Hamilton, LLP for bringing this decision to my attention.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Household Exclusion and Stacking Issues Case

In the case of Gallagher v. Geico Indemnity, No. 87 WAL 2017 (Pa. Aug. 8, 2017), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted an appeal to address issues pertaining to a household exclusion and stacking issues.  The Court's Order granting the appeal reads, as follows:

AND NOW, this 8th day of August, 2017, the Petition for Allowance of Appeal is GRANTED. The issues, as stated by the Petitioner, are:

(1) Whether the "household vehicle exclusion" violates Section 1738 of the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL) where GEICO issued all household policies and unilaterally decided to issue two separate policies, when the insured desired stacking, elected stacking, paid additional premiums for stacking and never knowingly waived stacking of underinsured motorist benefits?

(2) Whether the "household vehicle exclusion" impermissibly narrows or conflicts with the statutory mandates of the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law and the evidence of record is that GEICO was fully aware of the risks of insuring a motorcycle in the same household as other family vehicles but unilaterally decided to write a separate motorcycle policy?
I send thanks to Attorney Scott Cooper of the Schmidt Kramer firm in Harrisburg, PA for bringing this Order to my attention.

Landlord Secures Summary Judgment In Slip and Fall Case Where Court Found Duties Owed by Tenant

In a recent decision by the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court in the case of Stuski v. Philadelphia Auth. 4 Indev., No. 1979 C.D. 2016 (Pa. Cmwlth. May 25, 2017 Covey, J.), summary judgment was affirmed in favor of a landlord Defendant in a slip and fall matter.  

The court ruled that the tenant and not the landlord had the duty to remove snow and ice from the premises where the tenant had exclusive control over the premises where the slip and fall occurred.  The court additionally noted that the tenant was obligated under the lease to perform snow and ice removal and had taken actual responsibility for that task.  

As such, the entry of summary judgment by the trial court was affirmed.  

 Anyone wishing to review a copy of this case may click HERE.


Source:  “Digest of Recent Opinions,” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (June 20, 2017).  


Friday, August 4, 2017



To ease the review of the file for appellate purposes after the trial is completed, keep a separate yellow pad listing all objections you have asserted and lost.

Prior to trial, start that list with any summary judgment issues or pre-trial motion in limine issues you may have lost.

During the course of the trial, each time you lose an objection, make some quick, concise note of it on the pad to help you to recall all such issues after trial as you determine which ones are worthy of taking up the appellate ladder.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Liability Case Allowed To Proceed Against Defendant Who Filed Chapter 7 Bankruptcy - PART II

Tort Talkers may recall a recent post on the Bankruptcy Court case of In re Betty L. Morris addressing the ability of a Plaintiff to move a personal injury case forward against a tortfeasor who is in bankruptcy where the Plaintiff agrees to limit the recovery to the amount of the liability limits available.  That Tort Talk post can be viewed via this LINK.

Anyone wishing to review the companion state court decision in that case along the same lines may click HERE.

I send thanks to Attorney Scott E. Diamond of the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania law firm of Sacks Weston Diamond, LLC for bringing this case to my attention. 

Court Rules That Rejection of UIM Coverage Forms Not Required Where Vehicle Not Insured for Liability

In the case of Baldridge v. Amica Mut. Ins. Co., No. 2:17-cv-00273-AJS (W.D. Pa. June 30, 2017 Schwab, J.), the Federal Western District Court of Pennsylvania addressed the issue of whether underinsured motorist coverage was available to the Plaintiff for stacking purposes on one of his four personal vehicles which the Defendant insured.  

According to the Opinion, there was no dispute that the Defendant insurance company insured the four (4) personal vehicles of the Plaintiff.  There was also no dispute that the Plaintiff had UIM coverage in the amount of $300,000.00 on three of the four personal vehicles.  

The question before the court was whether the Plaintiff was entitled to UIM coverage on the fourth vehicle, which was noted to be a Mustang.  The more specific question for the court to resolve was whether the Plaintiff had UIM coverage in the amount of $900,000.00 ($300,000.00 multiplied by three vehicles) or $1.2 million dollars ($300,000.00 multiplied by four vehicles).  

The carrier asserted that, because it never provided liability coverage on the Plaintiff’s Mustang, the carrier was never required to also offer the Plaintiff’s UIM coverage on that vehicle.  

The Defendant carrier produced a portion of the insurance policy it issued to the Plaintiff which confirmed that the Mustang was “not covered” for liability.   Rather, that vehicle was covered only for damage to the Mustang for accidents other than collision loss.  

After a review of the waiver/rejection of UIM coverage statutes found at 75 Pa. C.S.A. §1731 and §1734, the court agreed with the carrier’s position and found that, because the Mustang was not insured for liability purposes, the Defendant carrier was never required to offer UIM benefits on that vehicle.   As such, no signed waiver of UIM benefits with respect to the Mustang was required by law.  

Accordingly, the court ruled in favor of the Defendant carrier on the motion presented.  

Anyone wishing to review this decision may click this LINK.

I send thanks to Attorney Joseph Hudock of the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania law firm of Summers McDonnell, Hudak & Guthrie, P.C., for bringing this case to my attention.  

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Latest Appellate Decision on Admissibility of Intoxication Evidence in an Auto Accident Matter

For the latest appellate analysis on the issue of admissibility of a Defendant’s alleged intoxication in a motor vehicle accident case, see Partlow v. Gray, No. 2017 Pa.Super. 187 (Pa. Super. June 15, 2017 Dubow, J., Solano, J., Ford Elliott, P.J.E.)(Op. by Dubow, J.).  

This matter arose out of an intersectional accident involving an allegedly intoxicated defendant who made a left hand turn across the decedent’s lane of travel.   The decedent’s estate filed a wrongful death and survival action.  

Prior to trial, the trial court resolved several Motions In Limine, including one involving the admissibility of the defendant driver’s consumption of alcohol and intoxication, and related expert testimony.  

On appeal, the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s admission of the evidence of the defendant’s alcohol consumption and intoxication.  

The Superior Court noted that evidence of a driver’s intoxication was generally relevant to reckless or careless driving allegations.   However, the court reaffirmed the law that evidence of consumption of alcohol or a BAC test, by themselves, should not be admitted to prove intoxication.

Here, the court found that the Plaintiff presented additional sufficient evidence of the defendant driver’s unfitness to drive, including the police officers’ observations of the defendant driver immediately after the accident, including the officers’ observation of the defendant's bloodshot and watery eyes and lethargic behavior after the accident.  

The court also noted that the plaintiff presented a BAC test results in conjunction with expert testimony regarding those results with respect to the defendant’s fitness to drive.   The plaintiff’s experts opined at trial that the defendant’s measured BAC after the accident indicated that the defendant’s BAC was still a .104 at the time of the accident.  

The Superior Court noted that, while each piece of the above evidence regarding the Defendant’s intoxication individually may not have been sufficient to render the evidence admissible, taken together, the evidence was sufficiently reliable and, therefore, admissible. 

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this Opinion may click this LINK.


Source:  “Digest of Recent Opinions,” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (July 11, 2017).