Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Pennsylvania Supreme Court To Address Whether Emotional Distress Meets Definition of Bodily Injury

The Legal Intelligencer has reported that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted allocatur in the case of Lipsky v. State Farm on the issue of whether emotional distress without physical injury can be covered under an automobile insurance policy’s definition of "bodily injury."

The State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance at issue provides coverage for bodily injury which is defined as “bodily injury to a person and sickness, disease or death which results from it.”

By way of background, in Lipsky, a parent and siblings witnessed their family member get fatally hit by a car were seeking damages under the bodily injury portion of the policy that covered the car.
In a September 2011 opinion, the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled the family could collect damages under the policy.  That court found that witnessing a family member be killed by a car is a distinct bodily injury covered under the definition of “bodily injury” found in the insurance policy.  The previous Tort Talk post on that decision can be reviewed here.

According to the article, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania granted State Farm’s appeal, limited to two issues. Under the first issue, the court will address whether the family’s damages do in fact meet the policy’s bodily injury definition. If so, the court will then review the issue of whether the family members’ claims are subject to the “each accident” liability limits rather than the “each person” limits despite the fact that their emotional distress resulted from the bodily injury suffered by their son and brother where the policy includes in the “each person” limits “all injury and damages to others resulting from this bodily injury.”

Here is a link to the copy of the Supreme Court Order granting allocatur and delineating the issues to be addressed (Note that the Order appears to be incomplete when you go to the link but apparently that is a typo).

Source:  "Pa. Supreme Court Takes Up NIED Insurance Case" by Gina Passarella of The Legal Intelligencer (April 25, 2012).

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