Thursday, February 4, 2021

Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Addresses Stacking Issues

In the case of Thiry v. LM General Ins. Co., No. GD18-0143 (C.P. Allegh. Co. Dec. 30, 2020 Connolly, J.), the court addressed issues with respect to UIM stacking.

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff’s father purchased automobile insurance coverage from the carrier in 2012 and, as part of the application process, signed appropriate UM/UIM coverage forms. As part of the forms executed, the Plaintiff’s father waived stacked limits of UIM coverage for himself and members of his household. At that time, three (3) vehicles were insured under the policy.

That policy was renewed for the three (3) original vehicles on two (2) subsequent occasions. Non-stacking endorsements were issued at each renewal.

Then, in March of 2015, the family purchased a fourth vehicle that was added to the policy. An amended Declarations page was issued listing four (4) vehicles, as well as an identification card for the new vehicle. However, no other paperwork was issued at that time.

The policy, which now covered four (4) vehicles was again renewed in September of 2015.

Almost a year later, in August of 2016, the Plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle accident while riding as a passenger in a U-Haul vehicle being driven by a friend.

The Plaintiff collected the liability limits of the driver’s personal policy and the UIM limits from the U-Haul’s insurer.

The Plaintiff then sought UIM coverage from the Defendant carrier in this matter, arguing that he was a resident relative under his father’s policy.

The UIM carrier that provided coverage under the father’s policy paid the Plaintiff the non-stacked UIM limits of $250,000.00 but refused to agree to stacked coverage for the other remaining three (3) vehicles under that policy.

The Plaintiff filed this coverage action, claiming that he was entitled to stacked UIM coverage because the addition of the fourth vehicle on the policy represented a new purchase of insurance and that, therefore, a new waiver of stacking was required in order for the carrier to take the position it was asserting in this matter.

After his analysis of the facts and the current status of Pennsylvania law, the court ruled that the policy should be read to provide stacked limits on all four (4) vehicles, thereby entitling the Plaintiff to pursue additional UIM benefits under the policy. In so ruling, this court reviewed the appellate court’s decisions in Sackett I, Sackett II, and Sackett III.

The court ruled that, under these Sackett decisions and other on point state court decision compel the conclusion that a new stacking waiver was required under the facts presented in this case. As such, the court found that the Plaintiff was entitled to stacked UIM benefits under the policy in question.

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

I send thanks to Attorney John A. Biedrzycki of the Pittsburgh, PA office of Biedrzycki Law Office for bringing this case to my attention.

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