Monday, November 4, 2019

Lebanon County Court of Common Pleas Extends Gallagher v. Geico Decision to Wider Facts

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision in Gallagher v. Geico, 201 A.3d 131 (Pa. 2019), which served to invalidate the Household Exclusion in automobile insurance policies, was relied upon in a recent Lebanon County case to deny a Defendant carrier's Preliminary Objections.

In the case of Loose v. Pennsylvania National Mutual Insurance, No. 2019-00664 (C.P. Leb. Co., Oct. 23, 2019 Kline, J.), the court denied Penn National’s Preliminary Objection in a case in which a Plaintiff sought a ruling to find the household exclusion invalid under the Gallagher decision.

In the Loose case, the Plaintiff was injured after being in an accident while on her husband’s Geico insured motorcycle.  The Plaintiff received the underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage on the motorcycle.

The Plaintiff then made a claim on her personal UIM policy with Penn National that had stacked coverage.

Penn National attempted to limit Gallagher to the facts of the case, i.e., efforts to recover UIM coverage under two separate policies that had been issued by the same carrier.  The trial court in Loose rejected the carrier's efforts to limit the scope of the Gallagher case.

Rather, the trial court in Loose held “that Gallagher's conclusion invalidating the Household Vehicle Exclusion as violative of the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law shall be permissibly extended and applied as precedent to the issue at bar.”

It therefore appears, at least in Lebanon County where the Loose case was handed down, that having different companies providing UIM coverage under a given set of facts does not change the result that the Household Exclusion is invalid as a being violative  exclusion is not valid. The trial court is now following the federal courts on this issue.

Anyone wishing to read the Loose decision may click this LINK.

I send thanks to Attorney Scott B. Cooper of the Harrisburg, PA law office of Schmidt Kramer for bringing this case to my attention.

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