Monday, November 27, 2017

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Clarifies When Statute of Limitations Begins to Run in Uninsured (UM) Motorists Benefits Claim



In the case of Bristol v. Erie, No. 124 MAP 2016 (Pa. Nov. 22, 2017) (Maj. Op. by Mundy, J.) (Wecht, J., Dissenting) the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the statute of limitations in an uninsured motorist case does not begin to run until there is an alleged breach of the insurance contract, i.e., the denial of a claim or a refusal to arbitrate.

 This was a 6-1 decision with Justice David Wecht dissenting on procedural grounds.

The Court delineated the specific issue before it as involving the question of when the statute of limitations begins to runs for a court action in an uninsured (UM) motorist claim arising out of an automobile insurance policy containing an arbitration agreement. 

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court noted that this was an issue of first impression in its Court.

The Bristol decision reverses the Pennsylvania Superior Court's previous ruling in Hopkins v. Erie, which held that the statute of limitations in an uninsured motorist (UM) benefits claim begins to run on the date of the accident.

In its analysis, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court noted that the mandates of Pennsylvania statute of limitations law provide that the statute of limitations begins to run from the time a cause of action accrues or arises. 

The Supreme Court noted that a cause of action in a UM context accrues or arises when a carrier is alleged to have breached its contract of insurance.  The Court more specifically held that an uninsured motorist (UM) claim begins when a carrier denies the claim or refuses to arbitrate.

Given that the carrier had not denied coverage or refused to arbitrate in this particular case, the court ruled that the lower courts had erred in granting summary judgment in favor of the carrier on its statute of limitations argument.

The Majority Opinion from Bristol can be read HERE.

Justice Wecht's Dissenting Opinion can be viewed HERE.

I send thanks to Attorney Scott Cooper for bringing this case to my attention.

No comments:

Post a Comment