Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Summary Judgment Denied in Rejection of UIM Coverage Case

In an Opinion and Order, the Court of Common Pleas in Franklin County in the case of Blake v. Progressive Specialty Ins. Co., 31 Franklin Co. L. J. 60 (C.P. Franklin Co. 2013 Herman, J.), denied a Plaintiff-insureds' Motion for Summary Judgment in a Declaratory Judgment action because genuine issues of material fact were found to exist with respect to whether underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) coverage was offered and discussed, and whether the insured-husband signed the UIM rejection form. 

The Blake case involved a motor vehicle accident matter in which the vehicle injured party Plaintiff was rear-ended by the tortfeasor's vehicle.  The tortfeasor's carrier tendered its $25,000 limits and the Plaintiff then turned to his own automobile insurance policy with Progressive Insurance for Underinsured (UIM) coverage.

Progressive basically said, "Not so fast" and produced an executed rejection of UIM coverage form applicable to the policy signed by the injured party's wife.

The injured part Plaintiff filed a declaratory judgment action asserting that the rejection of UIM coverage was not properly secured from the insureds.

In Blake, the insured-husband contended that during the phone conversation he had with the agent that UIM coverage was never specifically discussed and that he requested "full coverage."  Also, the insured-husband asserted that he did not know what UIM coverage was and that he had not authorized his wife to sign his name to a UIM rejection form.

According to the Opinion, the rejection form that the insurer produced contained the husband's signature but the wife who picked up the insurance forms testified that she signed her husband's name per instructions from the agent.   

The agent, however, testified that she did not recall the transaction of the purchase of the policy or the interaction with the insureds but stated that her business practice was to explain UIM coverage to clients, offer different default coverages and levels than what the insureds eventually purchased, and that she would not let one spouse sign for the other. 

The Franklin County trial court found that material issues of fact and testimony were in dispute and, as such, the carrier's motion for summary judgment was denied in order to allow the case to proceed to a jury to decide the matter.

Anyone wishing to review this Opinion in the Blake case may click this LINK.

I send thanks to Attorney Scott Cooper of the Harrisburg law firm of Schmidt Kramer for bringing this case to my attention.  In turn, Attorney Cooper acknowledged the efforts of Bill Mabius of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice in publicizing this Opinion.

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