Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Pennsylvania Superior Court Revisits Waiver of Stacking Issue

Here is a LINK to the Pennsylvania Superior Court's latest decision on the issue of stacked UM coverage in the case of Bumbarger v. Peerless Ins. Co., 2013 Pa.Super. 47 (Pa.Super. June 6, 2014)(en banc)(Gantman, J., concurring)(Opinion by Lazarus, J.).

In this case, the Plaintiff was involved in an accident with an uninsured driver and filed suit against her own carrier for uninsured motorists benefits.  An issue arose as to whether or not the Plaintiff was entitled to stacked coverage.

The Plaintiff had waived stacked coverage when she originally purchased the policy for coverage on two vehicles.  She eventually later separately added two more vehicles to the policy but the carrier never obtained additional waivers of stacked coverage from the Plaintiff insured.  One of the additional vehicles was added under an endorsement to the policy and, when the fourth vehicle was added to the policy, it was not by way of an endorsement.

The Plaintiff contended that pursuant to the Sackett decisions, the carrier was required to obtain additional waivers of stacking from its insured when the third and fourth vehicles were added to the policy.  The Plaintiff asserted that the carrier breached the policy by failing to allow for stacked coverage.

If it was deemed by the court that the coverage need not be stacked, the Plaintiff would be entitled to $25,000 in coverage.  If stacked coverage was found to be warranted, the stacked coverage would have been $100,000.

After reviewing the law on the issue as applied to the particular facts presented, the Superior Court ruled on its first take on the issue that new waiver of stacking forms were required and that the failure to secure the waivers resulted in the Plaintiff being entitled to stacked coverage.

Reargument en banc was requested and granted by the Superior Court.  In its most recent en banc decision in Bumbarger, the Superior Court ruled in the same fashion noted above, i.e., that new waiver of stacking forms were required and the failure of the carrier to secure them meant that the Plaintiff was entitled to stacked coverage.

As this issue is somewhat convoluted, I have provided a link to the opinion above if you wish to study the court's analysis and rationale.

Suffice it to say, a review of the Sackett decisions and this Bumbarger opinion support a position that a waiver of stacking form should be secured whenever a new vehicle is added to an automobile insurance policy to avoid the issue being raised in the first place.

I send thanks to Attorney Brian Bevan of the Pittsburgh, PA law firm of DiBella, Geer, McAllister & Best, P.C. for bringing this case to my attention.

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