Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Washington County Trial Court Favors Severing Negligence Claims from UIM Claims in Post-Koken Cases

In a June 15, 2010 Order, visiting Senior Judge Charles H. Loughran issued an Order without Opinion in the Washington County Court of Common Pleas case of Barcus v. Mannino and Allstate Ins. Co., 2009 - Civil - 10171 (Wash. Co. June 15, 2010, Loughran, S.J.), coming down on the side of severing third party liability claims from the companion UIM claims.

In a twist, it was the UIM carrier in this matter that filed the preliminary objections seeking the severance. Ordinarily, it is the third party tortfeasor defendant that files the preliminary objections, primarily to avoid being lumped together in a trial with an insurance company.

In the Order, Judge Loughran cited, as support for his decision, the Butler County case of Baptiste v. Strobel and State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 2009 WL 3793590, A.D. 09-11444 (Butler Co. Nov. 5, 2009, Horan, J)(Court orders UIM claim and third party claim severed)(Judge Horan more recently issued another Order in this case denying Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration of the court's decision ordering the claims severed. The Judge did amend her Order to allow discovery on the UIM and tort claims to proceed concurrently. It was indicated to me that no party objected to this request pertaining to the discovery.).

The split of authority in the trial courts continues to grow on this important issue. By my count, there are at least 22 cases in favor of consolidation and 18 cases in favor of severance across the Commonwealth.

This case will be added to the Post-Koken Scorecard, which can be accessed by the link down on the right-hand column of Tort Talk.

Thanks to Attorneys Phillip Earnest and Amy M. Kirkham of the Pittsburgh law firm of Robb Leonard Mulvihill, LLP for bringing this case to my attention. Anyone desiring a copy of this Order without Opinion may contact me at dancummins@comcast.net.

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