Friday, August 29, 2014

Pennsylvania Superior Court Rejects UIM Rejection Form as Ambiguous

In a memorandum opinion handed down last week in the case of Bricker v.  State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, No. 102 MDA 2014 (Pa. Super. Aug. 22, 2014 Lazarus, Wecht, Musmanno, J.) (non-precedential memorandum by Lazarus, J.), the Pennsylvania Superior Court addressed the validity of an underinsured motorist rejection (UIM) form. 

Under Pennsylvania law, auto insurance carriers are required to offer UIM coverage with every policy sold.  Policyholders are not required to purchase UIM coverage but, in order to opt out, must execute a valid rejection of UIM coverage form mandated by law.  Deviations from the statutory requirements of the UIM rejection form will render the rejection invalid.  Without a valid rejection form on file, the insured will be deemed not to have rejected such coverage.

The insured in the Bricker case argued that the rejection form was not valid because the form referred to a different policy number and thus could not meet the mandatory “this policy” language required by Section 1731 of the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law [MVFRL].

The Superior Court reiterated the rule in Pennsylvania that any “deviations from the specific statutory requirements in the wording or procedures surrounding the UIM rejection form will render it void.” Mem. Op. at p. 7. 

The court noted that the UIM form at issue appeared to be valid since it met all of the statutory requirements in that it contained the mandatory statutory language, the form was written on a separate sheet of paper, and the form had the insured’s dated signature. 

However, the Superior Court nevertheless ruled in favor of the insured and found coverage due to the ambiguity created by the inclusion of the incorrect policy number in the form.  Since there was an ambiguity in the form, the coverage question was construed in favor of the insured.  The rejection of UIM form was ultimately found to be invalid and the insured was deemed to be entitled to UIM coverage. 

Anyone wishing to secure a copy of this Opinion may contact me at dancummins@comcast.net.

I send thanks to Attorney Scott Cooper of the Harrisburg, PA law firm of Schmidt Kramer for forwarding this case to my attention.
 
Scott Cooper, Esq.
Schmidt Kramer
I note that Attorney Scott Cooper is set to be a featured speaker at the fast-approaching September 26, 2014 Tort Talk Expo 2014 and is slated to present on Bad Faith Issues in Post-Koken matters. 
 
To view the Agenda for this CLE seminar (3 Substantive and 1 Ethics Credit), please click Here.  To register online, please click HERE.  You may also contact me at dancummins@comcast.net for more information on Registration.

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