Thursday, March 4, 2021

Luzerne County Court Overturns Large UIM Arbitration Award From Back in the Day

In the case of Hartford Fire Insurance Co v. Davis, No.2822-CV-2007 (C.P. Luz.Co. Feb. 11, 2021 Gelb, J.), the court issued a decision on cross motions for summary judgment in a UIM case raising issues as to whether or not the subject policy had certain UIM coverage available.

According to the opinion, this matter arose out of a motor vehicle accident that occured back in 2005 when the plaintiff was allegedly injured while operating his employer's motor vehicle in the course and scope of his employment with Keystone Automotive Operations, Inc. .

Thereafter, the plaintiff pursued a UIM claim against Hartford Fire Insurance Company under an allegation that there was substantial UIM coverage available under that policy.

In 2007, the parties went through a Luzerne County UIM arbitration that resulted in an arbitration award in favor of the plaintiff in the amount of $2,930,000.00. 

Thereafter, Hartford filed a petition to vacate or modify the UIM award. A court order later modified that arbitration award down to 2,000,000.00 to reflect the purported policy limits of that insurance policy.

In her decision in this case, Judge Gelb noted that the prior court decision had not made a determination of whether or not the subject insurance policy did indeed provide for UIM coverage and, thirteen years after the subject arbitration had occured, that issue was before her on cross motions for summary judgment.

One of the issues raised in this matter were allegations of mistakes made by Hartford regarding the policy forms. In its granting of the carrier’s Motion for Summary Judgment, the court held that the alleged mistakes in the policy form did not automatically result in UIM coverage for the plaintiff.

The plaintiff also asserted that the UIM waiver form executed by Keystone contained language that was inconsistent with that mandated by the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law, which according to the plaintiff, rendered the waiver void. In her decision, Judge Gelb, found that the additional language contained in the waiver form was a de minimis variation of the required statutory language and that this variation did not serve to void the waiver.

The plaintiff also asserted in this matter that Keystone Automotive violated the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law and Pennsylvania public policy by failing to advise its employees that it had waived UIM coverage on the policy covering the vehicles that the employees drove.

In the end, Judge Gelb found that the UIM waiver in the Hartford policy did not violate public policy and further found that the carrier’s failure to advise its employees regarding the waiver of the UIM coverage also did not violate the public policy of Pennsylvania. 

With its decision, the court ultimately vacated the arbitration award.

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

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