Friday, July 29, 2016

Judge Mazzoni of Lackawanna County Addresses Validity of UIM Rejection Forms (Including One that Was Backdated)

In a recent decision in the case of Petrillo v. Ace American Ins. Co., 2013-CV-306 (C.P. Lacka. Co. July 26, 2016 Mazzoni, S.J.), Senior Judge Robert A. Mazzoni of the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas granted a Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment and denied the insurance company’s cross-Motion for Summary Judgment in a case surrounding the validity of UIM rejection forms.  

According to the Opinion, two (2) forms were at issue.  The first was a rejection form that was signed and dated October 18, 2011 which the Plaintiff attacked as not having the requisite language for such forms as required by 75 Pa. C.S.A. §1731(c), (c.1).  

Also at issue was a second rejection form with a date of January 1, 2012, the policy’s inception date.  That rejection form was found to “mirror,” in all aspects, the statutory language of §1731(c).   The Plaintiff presented evidence that this second form had been backdated to the policy inception date.  

After reviewing the facts against the applicable law, Judge Mazzoni agreed with the Plaintiff’s contention that the failure of the first form to strictly comply with the form language required by §1731(c) rendered that rejection form void.  

As to the second form, the Plaintiff asserted that backdating the form rendered that form void.   The Defendants countered with a position that the backdating of the form was irrelevant because that form was allegedly signed months before the subject accident occurred.  

Judge Mazzoni noted that §1731(c.1) requires that the form be signed by the first named insured and be dated in order to be valid.    

The court noted that, absent evidence to the contrary, the court could not conclude as a matter of law that there existed any fraud in the backdating of the document.  However, the court went on to review differing prior court decisions on the import of  the backdating of insurance forms. 

The Petrillo court found the second, backdated waiver of UIM benefits form to be void and of no legal effect.  In so ruling, the court noted that there was an uncertainty as to when the backdating had occurred. 

Anyone wishing to review Judge Mazzoni's Opinion in the Petrillo case may click this LINK.

I send thanks to Attorney Vince Cimini of the Scranton, PA law firm of Cognetti & Cimini for bringing this case to my attention.

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