Saturday, January 23, 2010

Household Exclusion Upheld in Lackawanna County

Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas Judge Carmen Minora recently issued a decision upholding the validity of a family vehicle/household exclusion in an automobile policy in the case of Steinetz v. Allstate Property & Casualty Ins. Co., PICS Case No. 09-2121 (Lacka. Co. Dec. 23, 2009, Minora, J.). A copy of this case can be secured for a small fee by calling the Pennsylvania Law Weekly's Instant Case Service at 1-800-276-7427 and giving the above PICS Case Number.

The household exclusion generally applies to the situation where an injured party resides in a household where there are multiple vehicles that are covered by different insurance companies. The exclusion basically states that, if the injured party is hurt while in one of the vehicles of the household, while the injured party can recover UIM benefits under the policy of that vehicle, the injured party is generally not entitled to also go after the coverage that may be available from the different carriers covering the other vehicles in the household.

In the Steinetz case, the plaintiff lived with his father as was injured while in his father's vehicle. As a resident relative under the father's policy, the plaintiff was entitled to, and did, recover benefits under the automobile insurance coverage for that vehicle.

At the time of the accident, the plaintiff also owned his own vehicle that had his own separate insurance coverage under a different insurance policy. The plaintiff turned to the carrier that sold him that separate policy in an effort to recover more UIM benefits. That carrier denied the claim under the family vehicle/household exclusion.

After the denial, the plaintiff then filed a lawsuit against that carrier for breach of contract and other claims. Faced with the plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings and the defendant's motion for summary judgment, Judge Minora followed the recent line of appellate cases and upheld the exclusion and ruled in favor of the defense on each of the motions filed. Similar to the repeated rejection of the argument by the appellate courts, Judge Minora likewise rejected the plaintiff's argument that the exclusion was against public policy.

Source: Pennsylvania Law Weekly--Case Digests--January 25, 2010.

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