Monday, August 2, 2010

Superior Court Rejects Application of Regular Use Exception to U.S. Post Office Garage/Maintenance Worker

In a July 29, 2010 decision in the case of Dixon v. GEICO, 2010 WL 2950318 (Pa.Super. July, 29, 2010, Bender, J. Ott, J., Kelly, J. - Opinion by Kelly, J.) , the Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed a trial court decision which applied the "regular use" exclusion to preclude UIM coverage for a garage man employed by the U.S. Post Office injured while delivering a repaired postal vehicle.

The injured party worked for the U.S. Postal Service at a repair and maintenance facility in Philadelphia as a garage man. His duties included, in part, the maintenance of the postal vehicles and driving them to various post offices to then be used by the mailmen. He was involved in an accident while driving a postal vehicle and in the process of delivering the vehicle to a post office.

The tortfeasor paid his $15,000 liability limits. The U.S. Post Office was exempt from having UIM coverage and did not otherwise purchase any UIM coverage on the vehicle.

The injured party therefore turned to his own personal automobile insurance policy with GEICO for underinsured (UIM) motorists coverage. GEICO denied the UIM claim under its "regular use" exclusion which precluded UIM coverage to an insured "When using a motor vehicle furnished for the regular use of you, your spouse, or a relative who resides in your household, which is not insured under this policy."

In its ruling the Superior Court reiterated the findings of prior decisions that the "regular use" exclusion was not against public policy and did not violate Pennsylvania's Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law.

The Superior Court disagreed with the trial court's finding that there were no issues of material fact on the extent of the use of the vehicle by the injured party. The Superior Court noted that there were pending factual issues on whether the injured party's use of the vehicle was regular or "habitual" as well as whether the vehicle was, under the terms of the exclusion, "furnished or available" for regular use by the injured party. The case was therefore remanded back to the trial court for a jury determination on these coverage issues.

In so ruling, the Dixon court noted that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was considering a similar UIM "regular use" exclusion issue in the still not decided case of Williams v. GEICO, 986 A.2d 45 (Pa. 2009), which involves a police officer injured while driving a police vehicle.

Here's a link to the Superior Court's decision in Dixon v. GEICO:
http://www.pacourts.us/OpPosting/Superior/out/a19034_10.pdf


I send thanks to Attorney Scott Cooper, Esq. of the Harrisburg firm of Schmidt Kramer for publicizing this case on LinkedIn.com.

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