Sunday, March 24, 2013

Superior Court Addresses Proper Procedure to Challenge Venue on Petitions to Appoint UM/UIM Arbitrators

In its recent decision in the case of Cid v. Erie Insurance Group, 872 EDA 2012 (Pa. Super. Feb. 15, 2013) (Opinion by Bowes, J.), the Pennsylvania Superior Court addressed a challenge to venue in a motor vehicle accident case in which the injured party filed a Petition to Appoint a Third/Neutral Arbitrator and Compel UIM Arbitration in Philadelphia County.   A central issue in this case was the manner in which the challenge to venue could be raised in response to such a petition.

In this matter, the insurance carrier filed an Answer to the Petition and, in that Answer, argued that, according to a forum selection clause in the insurance policy, proper venue lay in Montgomery County, which was the insured’s county of residence at the time of the accident.  

The injured party argued that the carrier waived any objection to venue by failing to file timely Preliminary Objections to the Petition.  

The Superior Court ultimately ruled that the Petition fell within the definition of Pa. R.C.P.  206.1 and that, as such, Preliminary Objections are not contemplated within the petition practice delineated under that Rule.   Accordingly, the Court found that, since Erie raised this opposition to venue in its initial Answer to the Petition, the objection was properly preserved.  

The Court also ultimately agreed with the contention of the carrier that proper venue lay in Montgomery County as per the terms of the insurance policy.  

Accordingly, this Opinion offers guidance on the proper procedure to follow in challenging venue in response to a Petition to Appoint Arbitrators in a UM/UIM case.  This case also represents another decision upholding the validity of forum selection clauses in UM/UIM cases.

Anyone desiring a copy of this Opinion may click this LINK. 

I send thanks to Attorney Joseph P. Walsh of Walsh Pancio, LLC in Lansdale, Pennsylvania for forwarding this Opinion to my attention.  

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