Monday, March 15, 2010

Carriers Not Liable for Emergency Responder Costs

On March 5, a three judge panel of the Superior Court ruled in Safe Auto v. Berlin and McKean Hose Company, 2010 WL 760953 (Pa.Super. 2010 Bender, Shogan, Fitzgerald, J.) that an auto insurer has no liability for emergency responder costs.

According to the Opinion, during the course of the rescue, the Hose Company used emergency equipment and supplies including eight flares, two hand lights, four hand tools, one generator, one set of cribbing and a hose truck. The supplies were valued at $1,194.

One week after the rescue, on April 10, 2007, the Hose Company attempted, through Pennsylvania Fire Recovery Services, to obtain reimbursement for that amount from Safe Auto, billing the company for coverage under Berlin's policy.

In the Opinion by Judge John Bender the court affirmed the summary judgment granted by the lower court in favor of the insurer by ruling that the expenditure of emergency equipment and supplies to rescue the claimant in April, 2007, is neither a “loss” nor “property damage” under the policy.

It is noted parenthetically that the Insurance Federation joined the Pennsylvania Defense Institute in an amicus brief supporting Safe Auto.

The Opinion can be viewed online at http://www.aopc.org/OpPosting/Superior/out/A30007_09.pdf.



One somewhat related issue I have seen is whether the first party benefits carrier, or PIP carrier, has to pay for a life flight or helicopter transport of an injured party from the scene of a motor vehicle accident under the medical benefits coverage. I have seen arguments for and against whether the bill for that service is to be "paid or payable" under the injured party's policy. If it's not "payable" under the PIP coverage, then the Plaintiff can presumably recover the expense at trial.

Has anyone dealt with this issue or seen a case on it? Please let me know--click on "comment" below if you are willing to share your insight. Thanks.

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