Friday, May 8, 2015

Foster Child Due Coverage as a 'Family Member' Under Auto Insurance Policy

In its recent decision in the case of  Rourke v. Penn. Nat. Mut. Cas. Ins. Co., No. 1028 MDA 2014 (Pa. Super. April 28, 2015 Mundy, Stabile, Fitzgerald, J.)(Op. by Mundy, J.)(Fitgzerald, J., concurring), the Pennsylvania Superior Court addressed the issue of whether a foster child was a "family member" of his foster parents' household under the terms of an automobile insurance policy.

According to the Opinion , the person at issue had been a foster child but, ten days before the subject accident, his status as a "dependent child" had been terminated because he was over the age of 18 and was not enrolled in college.
Under the policy, a 'Family member' was defined as “a person related to you by blood, marriage or adoption who is a resident of your household.  This includes a ward or foster child.”  

The terms 'ward' and 'foster child' were not defined in the policy.
Reviewing the record before it, the Superior Court ruled that the person at issue was indeed a 'ward' at the time of the crash.

The court also ruled that, in any event, the term 'ward' as used in an insurance contract with no further definition is an ambiguous term as it is a term susceptible to more than one interpretation. 
The court followed the well-settled rule that ambiguous terms in auto insurance policies are to be construed in favor of the insured.

The Superior Court in Rourke also found that there was a genuine issue of material fact to be decided by the jury on the question of whether or not the injured insured party had a reasonable expectation of coverage under the circumstances.

Accordingly, coverage was afforded to the foster child under the policy.

Anyone wishing to review this decision may click HERE.
I send thanks to Attorney Matthew S. Crosby of the Harrisburg, PA office of Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLP (Attorney Rosenberg of that office represented the injured party insured), as well as to Attorney Scott Cooper of the Harrisburg, PA law firm of Schmidt Kramer for bringing this case to my attention.

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