Thursday, October 25, 2012

Montour County Post-Koken Decision On Consolidation vs. Severance of Claims

In his recent October 10, 2012 decision in the case of Slaterbeck v. Sutsko and Erie Insurance, No. 237-CV-2012 (C.P. Montour Co. Oct. 12, 2012 Norton, J.), Judge Gary E. Norton of the Montour County Court of Common Pleas issued a decision in which he overruled the Preliminary Objections of the UIM carrier, Erie Insurance Company, to the joinder of actions in this post-Koken case.  As such, Montour County falls under the list of counties in favor of the consolidation claims, at least during the course of discovery.

In his decision, Judge Norton expounded on the Rule 411 evidence issue as well.   After finding that consolidation was favored due to policy considerations in terms of judicial economy, the avoidance of multiple lawsuits, and concerns regarding possible inconsistent verdicts, Judge Norton also stated that “Pa. R.E. 411, which otherwise precludes introduction of evidence regarding liability insurance, is not applicable since UM and UIM coverage does not involve third party “liability” insurance of the Defendant/alleged tortfeasor.”   Judge Norton further believed that the “[p]olicy considerations underlying the prohibition in Pa. R.E. 411 are not applicable” in post-Koken cases.

However, in this Slaterbeck decision, the court also separately upheld Erie Insurance’s forum selection clause and ordered that the case be transferred to Clinton County in light of the language of that clause which required the case to be brought in the county of the insured’s domicile at the time of the accident.  

As such, the court ultimately severed the Plaintiff’s UM/UIM claims against Defendant Erie and transferred those claims to the Clinton County Court of Common Pleas with the cost and fees related to the transfer and removal of the record to be paid by the Plaintiff pursuant to Pa. R.C.P.  1006(a).  

Anyone desiring a copy of this decision may contact me at dancummins@comcast.net.

I send thanks to Attorney Lee Albright, Esquire of the Scranton, Pennsylvania Pisanchyn Law Firm for bringing this decision to my attention.

 

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