Friday, June 5, 2020

Judge Williamson of Monroe County Applies Household Exclusion Despite Gallagher Decision

In the case of Erie Insurance Exchange v. King, No. 6937-CV-2019 (C.P. Monroe Co. Jan. 27, 2020 Williamson, J.), the court applied a household exclusion despite the Gallagher case and ruled that a Plaintiff-carrier did not have to provide uninsured motorist benefits as a result. 

According to the Opinion, Erie Insurance filed this declaratory judgment action asserting that the injured party Plaintiff was not entitled to recover uninsured motorist benefits under the policy due to the application of either the household exclusion or the fact that the policy had a valid waiver of stacking associated with it. 

At the time of the accident, the injured party Plaintiff was operating a vehicle that was covered under a commercial policy issued by another insurance company. At the same time, the Plaintiff had a personal automobile insurance policy with Erie Insurance. 

The injured party Plaintiff made a claim for uninsured motorist benefits under the commercial policy. Once those benefits were exhausted the Plaintiff made a claim for uninsured motor vehicle benefits under the Erie policy. 

The Plaintiffs argued that the household exclusion had been overruled by the case of Gallagher v. Geico, 201 A.3d 131 (Pa. 2019).

In his Opinion, Judge Williamson noted that, when one of the Plaintiffs had purchased the policy with Erie, he had executed a waiver of stacked benefits and received a reduction in the premiums as a result. As such, the records confirmed that the Plaintiff had waived the ability to stack two or more separate policies.

Accordingly, Judge Williamson concluded that Erie Insurance was not required to pay uninsured motorist benefits to that particular Plaintiff based upon the household exclusion. The court also noted that Erie did not have the duty to pay uninsured benefits given the existence of a valid waiver of stacking. 

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

Source: “Digest of Recent Opinions.” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (March 3, 2020).  I also thank Attorney Scott Cooper for sending a copy of the decision to my attention.

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