Friday, October 30, 2015

Western District Federal Court Applies Sackett Analysis to Find That New Waiver Forms Not Required

In the Western District Federal Court case of Allstate v. Gierlach, No. 2:13-cv-699 (W.D. Pa. Sept. 10, 2015 Cercone, J.), the court granted the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Allstate in a declaratory judgment matter on a waiver of UIM coverage issue.  
By way of background, the policyholder rejected UIM coverage when the policy was initiated and coverage was provided on one (1) personal automobile vehicle. Thereafter, another vehicle was added and no new form was secured.

In the underlying matter, the insured’s resident son sustained fatal injuries in a motor vehicle accident.

The insured’s attorney attempted to raise a Sackett argument and asserted that a new form should have been secured when another vehicle was added to the policy. Allstate disagreed and filed the declaratory judgment action.

After reviewing the current status of the Sackett analysis under Pennsylvania law, Judge Cercone entered summary judgment in favor of Allstate. The court, relying upon the Pennsylvania Superior Court decision in the case of Smith v. The Hartford Ins. Co., 849 A.2d 277, 280-81 (Pa. Super. 2004) noted that the plain language of §1731 and 1791 under the Motor Vehicle Code evidenced the intent of the Pennsylvania legislature that, once properly waived, UIM coverage need not be reinstated absent affirmative action on the part of the insureds.

Judge Cercone noted that the holding in Smith was reinforced by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in the Sackett case. Judge Cercone stated that the law can be summarized as establishing that "a decision to reject UIM benefits carries forward until affirmatively changed. [There is nothing in [Section] 1731 counseling otherwise.]" [citation omitted].

Judge Cercone found that due to the uinsured’s wholesale waiver of UIM benefits available under the policy, the addition of cars to the policy at a later date was not considered to be a "subsequent purchase of UIM coverage," and was, therefore, not sufficient to constitute affirmative action by the insured’s reinstate UIM coverage.

Based on this analysis, the court granted the Motion for Summary Judgment on Allstate and found that the insured’s prior valid waiver of UIM coverage carried forward when new cause was added to the policy. 

Anyone wishing to review the Allstate v. Gierlach decision may click this LINK.

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