Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pennsylvania Superior Court Affirms Denial of UIM Claim Based Upon Worker's Compensation Exclusivity Provision

You may recall that I previously reported on the decision of Judge Alan Hertzberg of the Allegheny Court of Common Pleas in the case of Erie Insurance Exchange v. Conley, No. G.D. 09-21471 (Alleg. Co. Aug. 27, 2010, Hertzberg, J.), in which the Court addressed the issue of the permissibility of filing a lawsuit for UIM benefits when the tortfeasor is the Plaintiff’s employer and worker’s compensation benefits were paid to the injured party. That case involved an injured party who was injured while the scope and course of his employment.

Erie denied the claim for uninsured or underinsured motorist benefits and filed a declaratory judgment action. Judge Hertzberg had granted Erie’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings and found that Erie had no obligation to provide the injured party with any uninsured or underinsured motorist benefits.

After reviewing the applicable case law, Judge Hertzberg concluded that, where an injured party is injured by his employer or a co-employee with the scope and course of the injured party’s employment, the exclusivity provision of the worker’s compensation law limited the injured party’s recovery to the worker’s compensation benefits and precluded any uninsured or underinsured motorist claims.


UPDATE: On June 9, 2011, the Pennsylvania Superior Court issued a non-precedential memorandum decision affirming Judge Hertzberg’s opinion.

The Superior Court emphasized, as did Judge Hertzberg in the Opinion below, that the UIM policy below provided that UIM coverage would be provided where the "law entitles" the injured party to a recovery. 

Under these facts and the applicability of the Worker's Compensation exclusivity provision, the injured party was not legally entitled to a recovery. 

As such, the carrier's decision to deny coverage was affirmed.


Anyone desiring a copy of the Superior Court’s opinion may contact me at dancummins@comcast.net.

Click here to view a post on Judge Nealon's same decision on the same issue, handed down on the same day as Judge Hertzberg's trial court decision: 

http://www.torttalk.com/2010/09/another-trial-court-decision-upholding.html

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