Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Effort By UIM Carrier To Argue UIM Claim Barred By Terms of Third Party Release Rebuffed

In the case of Bonk v. American States Ins. Co., No. 3:18-CV-2417 (M.D. Pa. Oct. 1, 2019 Caputo, J.), the court declined to preclude a Plaintiff from pursuing a UIM claim based upon the language of the Release that the Plaintiff executed in the companion third party case.

The UIM carrier in this case argued that, because the third party Release referred to a release of liability in favor of “any and all persons” that Release amounted to a blanket barring of all claims given that the UIM claim was not exempted out. 

More specifically, the Release at issue confirmed that the Plaintiff “release[d] and forever discharge[d] [the tortfeasor] and any other person, firm, or corporation charged or chargeable with responsibility of liability” from any and all claims and causes of actions arising out of the subject incident.

While the court agreed that the UIM carrier was indeed a firm or corporation, the court felt that the UIM carrier had not established how it had been “charged or chargeable with responsibility of liability” with respect to the third party matter. The court emphasized that the UIM carrier did not cover the tortfeasor. The language in the Release was read by the court as applying only to those parties that would be held accountable for causing the accident.

Notably, Judge Caputo declined to follow the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas decision in the case of Crisp v. Ace American Ins. Co., No. 150902953 (C.P. Phila. Co. 2017).   Click HERE to view the Tort Talk blog post on the Crisp case and to see a Link to that case.

The court in this Bonk case noted that the language in the Release in the Crisp case released “any and all persons or entities whatsoever,” making that Release distinguishable in the court’s eyes from the Release in the Bonk case before it.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

I send thanks to Attorney Scott B. Cooper from the Harrisburg, PA law firm of Schmidt Kramer, P.C. for bringing this decision to my attention.

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