Saturday, May 29, 2010

Bucks County Court Rules No Uninsured Motorist Coverage for Accident Caused by Debris in Roadway

After a bench trial on May 19, 2010, Judge Jeffrey L. Finley of the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas recently entered a judgment in favor of the Erie Insurance in the case of Erie Insurance v. Sciss, 08-07915-32-1 (Bucks Co. May 19, 2010), a declaratory judgment action on the issue of whether the injured party was entitled to any uninsured (UM) motorist coverage as a result of a single vehicle accident caused by debris on the roadway.

This case involved a motorcycle accident that occurred on May 23, 2004. The injured party was driving a newly purchased Harley Davidson and was allegedly caused to crash by debris on the roadway in the form of gravel, cinders, stones and/or rocks. No other vehicle was involved in the accident.

The insurance policy at issue in the case provided that "Damages must result from a motor vehicle accident arising out of the ownership or use of the uninsured motor a motor vehicle."

Counsel for the carrier, Carey Breon, Esquire from the law firm of Forry Ullman relied on, in part, the recent defense-favorable Pike County decision on the same issue secured by my office in Adragna v. State Farm, 291-2009-Civil (Pike Co. May 5, 2010 Chelak, J.).

For more info on the Adragna case, click these links to other, recent posts on Tort Talk:

Counsel also relied upon the Montgomery County case of Erie Insurance Company v. Chong, Case No. 06-03858, in which that court recently granted summary judgment to Plaintiff, Erie, on similar facts.

In Chong, Defendant, Brandon K. Chong sought uninsured motorist benefits after he was seriously injured when his vehicle, insured by Erie, collided with a deer carcass on the westbound lanes of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

In support of their claim for uninsured motorist benefits, the injured party argued that the deer carcass allegedly came to be in the roadway after being negligently struck and permitted to remain in the roadway by an unidentified motorist.

After it was determined that the injured party was unable to produce any competent evidence to show how the deer carcass ended up on the road at, or just prior to, the accident, Erie was granted Summary Judgment.

Getting back to the case of Erie Insurance v. Sciss, after hearing the case during a bench trial, Judge Finley of the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas entered judgment in favor of Erie on the facts and law presented.

There now appears to be a growing line of cases holding that where a single vehicle accident is caused by debris in the roadway from an unknown or unidentified source, the uninsured motorist (UM) carrier need not provide UM benefits under a policy provides that, in order to recover, the accident must arise out of an accident caused by the maintenance or use of a vehicle as a vehicle.

Thanks to Attorney Cary Breon for bringing this case to my attention.

Anyone desiring a copy of the Erie Insurance v. Sciss one line Order can contact me at I am also trying to get my hands on the Erie Insurance v. Chong Order.

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