Tuesday, March 10, 2020

No UIM Stacking Allowed Where Daughter No Longer Resided in Insured's Household (Non-Precedential)

In the case of Grix v. Progressive Specialty Ins. Co., No. 312 MDA 2019 (Pa. Super. Feb. 10, 2020 Dubow, J., Nichols, J., and Colin, J.) (Mem. by Dubow, J.) (Nichols, J., concurring in the result) (non-precedential decision), the court affirmed the lower court’s entry of summary judgment in favor of the carrier in this declaratory judgment action involving a stacking issue.

According to the Opinion, the insured’s daughter sustained fatal injuries in a motor vehicle accident. 

At the time of the accident, the insured’s daughter was in a vehicle owned by the insureds and covered under a policy issued by the Defendant carrier. The carrier insured five (5) vehicles owned by the insureds and the insured’s policy carried stacked limits of underinsured motorist coverage of $250,000.00 each person. The insureds sought to recover stacked UIM benefits from the carrier relative to the accident.

The carrier denied the claim for stacked benefits under an argument that the insured daughter, who had signed a lease at another address approximately six (6) weeks prior to her death, was not a “resident” of the insured’s household. 

The insureds filed this declaratory judgment action. 

After completing a detailed analysis of the numerous facts presented by both sides as to the residency of the insured’s decedent at the time of the accident, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s entry of summary judgment in favor of the carrier. 

The trial court had ruled that, as a matter of “physical fact and presence,” the decedent’s daughter was not a resident of the insured’s household at the time of the accident. 

The policy language was also found to be unambiguous as to the relevant time of residency. 

The appellate court affirmed and noted that, under Pennsylvania law, the term of “resident” or “residency” requires, at a minimum, “so measure of permanency or habitual repetition.” See Op. at 10.  The court noted that most cases interpreting the “resident” analyzed the issue with regards to the quantity of contacts that an individual has with an insured’s household. 

In this case, although the insured’s daughter still received mail at her parent’s house, kept personal belongings at her parents’ house and continued to use her parents’ address as her address of record, the daughter could not be considered to be a “resident” of the insured’s household where, among other things, the daughter slept elsewhere every night. See Op. at 12. 

The court noted that there was no evidence to suggest that the daughter spent any night at her parents’ home after she moved into her rental premises prior to the accident.  As such, the Superior Court the court affirmed the lower court’s entry of summary judgment in favor of the carrier in this declaratory judgment action on the stacking issue. 

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

I send thanks to Attorney David R. Friedman of the King of Prussia, PA office of Forry Ullman for bringing this case to my attention.

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