Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Magistrate Judge Mehalchick of Federal Middle District Court Tackles Stacking Issues and Validity of Household Exclusion

Thinking through stacking issues can sometimes make your head hurt.

In the case of Blizman v. Travelers, No. 3:19-CV-01539 (M.D. Pa. Dec. 1, 2020 Mehalchick, M.J.), the court denied a Motion to Dismiss filed by the carrier in an insurance coverage case in which stacking issues and the household exclusion was implicated.

In this matter, the carrier sought to have the Plaintiff’s claims dismissed based upon the household exclusion and because the Plaintiffs had allegedly waived the coverage at issue.

In her Opinion, Federal District Magistrate Judge ruled that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s 2019 decision in the case of Gallagher v. Geico, in which the Pennsylvania Supreme Court eradicated the household exclusion, was a decision to be broadly interpreted and not considered to be limited to the facts before that Court.

Federal Magistrate Judge Mehalchick also ruled in this Blizman case that the series of Sackett decisions required an automobile insurance company to obtain written waiver of stacking forms from its insureds under circumstances where new vehicles are added to the policy.

The court also noted that the recent Erie Insurance v. Petrie decision was important because, under its holding, waivers of stacking only applied to intra-policy issues and stacking issues and not to inter-policy stacking issues.  (The Tort Talk blog post on that Petrie decision can be viewed HERE.

The court noted that it was unknown if there was any after acquired vehicle language at issue in this case because such language in any policy had not been provided in the record by the carrier.  Judge Mehalchick found that, even if there was after acquired vehicle language at issue in this case, Travelers still did not get the proper waivers as required by the law.

In footnote 19, Judge Mehalchick noted that issues similar to those presented in this caes are also currently pending before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in the Donavan v. State Farm case. 

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

I send thanks to Attorney David J. Selingo of the Kingston, Pennsylvania law firm of Selingo Guagliardo for bringing this case to my attention.

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