Thursday, February 23, 2012

Summary Judgment Entered In York County Limited Tort Case

In the recent December 16, 2011 decision by Judge John W. Thompson, Jr., of the York County Court of Common Pleas in the case of McWeeney v. Estate of Strickler, No. 2009-SU-6582-01 (C.P. York Dec. 16, 2011 Thompson, J.), the Court granted a Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment and denied a Plaintiff’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment in a Limited Tort case.

According to the Opinion, at the time of the accident, the injured party Plaintiff was operating a vehicle owned by her fiancé. That vehicle was covered by Progressive Insurance Company and listed the fiancé as the “Named Insured” under a Limited Tort policy. However, both the injured party Plaintiff and her fiancé were listed as principal drivers on the policy declarations page. The court additionally noted that the injured party Plaintiff was a permissive driver of the vehicle on the date of the accident.

The Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment arguing that the Plaintiff was covered by the Limited Tort option and had not sustained any serious injuries so as to breach the Limited Tort threshold. In response, the Plaintiff filed a counter-motion arguing that she was not bound by the Limited Tort option because she was not “a named insured” or “insured” within the definition provided under the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL), 75 Pa. C.S. §1705.

In its decision, the Court found, as a matter of law, that the Plaintiff was insured under the Limited Tort option of the Progressive policy. The Court noted that, under an application of the MVFRL, as well as the terms of the Progressive Insurance policy, it appeared that the injured party Plaintiff fell within the definition of an “insured person” under that policy, at the very least, as a permissive driver of the covered vehicle and as a person listed as one of the principal drivers on the declarations page.

Based on these facts, the Court felt that the Plaintiff did indeed fall under the definition of a “named insured” as found under 75 Pa.C.S. §1705(f) (“a named insured” for purposes of §1705 is “any individual identified by name as an insured in a policy of private passenger motor vehicle insurance.”).

The Court went on state that, as a named insured, the injured party Plaintiff would be held to the same tort option selected by the other named insured under the policy, i.e., the Limited Tort option in this case.

Having found that the injured party Plaintiff was bound by the Limited Tort option, the Court went on to note that, in its filings, the Plaintiff admitted that, if the Plaintiff was indeed Limited Tort, the Plaintiff agreed that her injuries did not rise to the level of a serious bodily injury to pierce the Limited Tort threshold. Accordingly, the Court ruled that, based upon this admission, the Plaintiff was unable to recover any non-economic loss, or pain and suffering damages, in this case.

Furthermore, since the Plaintiff admitted that her injuries did not affect her ability to earn income given that she was a full-time college student at the time of the accident, the Court went on to grant the Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment in its entirety as there was no valid economic damages claim presented.

I thank the prevailing defense attorney, Erick Violago, of the Harrisburg law firm of Griffith, Strickler, Lerman, Solymos & Calkins for forwarding this case to my attention. Anyone desiring a copy of this case, may click this link.

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