Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Denies Appeal in Case Raising Important Unsettled UM/UIM Issues

In a decision handed down yesterday the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a one-line Order denying a petition for allowance of appeal filed by an insurance company from the Superior Court’s decision in the case of Kline v. Travelers, No. 104 MDA 2019 (Pa. Super. 2019 McLaughlin, J., Ford Elliott, P.J.E., Gantman, P.J.E.)(Op. By Gantman, P.J.E.), which involved important unsettled issues, including both the Sackett stacking issue as well as the issue of the retroactive effect of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's eradication of the household exclusion in the Gallagher v. GEICO decision.

The trial court had ruled in favor of the insured on the Sackett issue but against the insured on the household exclusion issue.. Travelers appealed the Sackett issue, and the insured appealed the household exclusion issue.

In this Kline case, the Superior Court found in favor of the insured on both issues, vacated the lower court's decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. As noted, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has declined to review the issue further.

The case involved issues surrounding whether the Plaintiff-insured was entitled to stack his UIM coverage on two vehicles that had been added to his policy prior to the accident where the carrier did not secure a new waiver of stacking form from the insured. 

Another issue was whether the Plaintiff-insured was able to further stack coverage under a policy separately issued to his mother. As such, there were inter-policy and intra-policy stacking questions at issue in this case.

With regards to the Plaintiff-insured's own policy, the Superior Court in Kline had ruled that prior precedent under the Bumbarger decision supported its decision that the Plaintiff should be permitted to stack the coverages under his own policy.

Relative to the Household Exclusion and the retroactive effect of the Gallagher decision, the Superior Court in Kline had ruled that, as a general rule, the appellate courts are required to apply the law as it exists as of the time of appellate review before the court. After applying the law of Gallagher, the Superior Court in Kline had ruled that the Gallagher case rendered the Household Exclusion invalid such that the Plaintiff-insured could pursue stacked coverage that included the coverage under his mother's policy.

Here is a LINK to the Tort Talk post on the Superior Court's decision in Kline, which post contains a Link to the Superior Court's decision.

In its one line Order denying the right to appeal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court did not offer any explanation as to why it was declining to review these important issues that continue to cause differing decisions in the lower state and federal courts.

Anyone wishing to review this Order may click this LINK.

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

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