Monday, June 27, 2016

Pennsylvania Superior Court Affirms Trial Court's Molding of Post-Koken Verdict (Non-Precedential)

In the non-precedential decision in the case of Pusey v. Allstate Insurance Company, No. 888 EDA 2015 (Pa. Super. May 20, 2016 Ford Elliot, P.J.E. Stabile, and Strassburger, JJ.) (Mem. Op. by Stabile, J.), the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed a trial court’s handling of the molding of a verdict after an underinsured motorist trial.  

In this case, the trial court addressed the proper procedure for applying credits and comparative negligence in an underinsured motorist benefits trial.  

This matter arose out an incident during which a minor Plaintiff was struck by a vehicle while the minor was riding a bicycle. 

Prior to trial, the tortfeasor’s carrier tendered its $25,000.00 policy limits to the Plaintiff.   The Plaintiff then brought suit against the UIM carrier for underinsured motorist coverage.  

At trial, the jury awarded the Plaintiff $58.600.00.   However, the jury also attributed 41% of the negligence to the minor Plaintiff.  

When a post-trial dispute arose on how to apply the credit for the tortfeasor’s limits as well as the comparative negligent percentage, the trial court ruled that the comparative negligence percentage should be applied first, followed by the application of the credit owed from the tortfeasor’s liability limits.  

In its non-precedential Opinion, the Superior Court affirmed and found no abuse of discretion by the trial court in its decision.   In so ruling, the Superior Court rejected the Plaintiff’s argument that the Allstate policy language pertaining to the phrase “legally entitled to recover” was ambiguous as to how the net verdict was to be determined.  

The court stated that, “[t]o the contrary, it is clear that the amount [the Plaintiff] is “legally entitled to recover” is only reasonably interpreted as the amount she is entitled to collect according to the jury’s verdict.”  See Op. p. 6.  

As noted, the Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s application of the comparative negligence percentage of the Plaintiff first followed by the application of the credit owed from the tortfeasor’s liability limits.   Accordingly, the judgement entered by the trial court below was affirmed.  

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this non-precedential decision by the Pennsylvania Superior Court in the case of Pusey v. Allstate, may click this LINK.

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