Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Pennsylvania Superior Court Upholds Application of Household Exclusion

The Pennsylvania Superior Court recently upheld a household exclusion in the case of Erie Insurance Exchange v. Mione, No. 1450 EDA 2020 (Pa. Super. 2021).  

According to the Opinion by the court in Mione, the Pennsylvania was involved in a motor vehicle accident while driving his motorcycle.  The motorcycle was insured by Progressive Insurance.  Under that policy, UIM coverage had been rejected by the Plaintiff.   


After this accident, the Plaintiff sought to recover UIM benefits from two (2) Erie Insurance policies, one of which was issued to the Plaintiff on another of his personal vehicles. The other Erie policy was issued to a family member who resided in the Plaintiff’s household relative to another personal vehicle.   


In this matter, the Plaintiff asserted that the Gallagher v. Geico decision rendered the household exclusion void and also asserted that the rejection of UIM coverage on the motorcycle was irrelevant to the question of whether the UIM coverage under the Erie Insurance polices applied.   


Notably, even acknowledging the Gallagher v. Geico decision, the Pennsylvania Superior Court in this Mione case acknowledged that “this area of the law is not particularly clear and straightforward.”   


After reviewing numerous household exclusion decisions, the Pennsylvania Superior Court in Mione stated that “Gallagher does not seem to invalidate household exclusions in all cases, despite Appellants’ suggestion to the contrary…. Instead, Gallagher…hold[s] that a household exclusion cannot be used to evade §1738’s explicit requirements for waving stacking.”   See Op. at p. 19.


The Pennsylvania Superior Court went on to note that the case before it did not involve a stacking issue given that the motorcycle in which the Plaintiff was injured did not have any UIM coverage upon which to stack the coverage from the personal automobile insurance policies that had been issued by Erie Insurance.  As noted above, the Plaintiff had rejected UIM coverage on his motorcycle policy with Progressive Insurance. 


In this case, the court ruled that the Plaintiff was attempting to use the Erie automobile insurance policies to “procure” UIM coverage in the first place.   


The court ruled that, because this case did not involve stacking issues, the Gallagher case did not apply.  Because the Gallagher case was found to be inapplicable, the court in this Mione case held that the household exclusion remained enforceable.   


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


In a humorous irony, in its Opinion, the Pennsylvania Superior Court scolded the trial court for utilizing lengthy single-spaced footnotes in its Opinion because doing so made the trial court's Opinion difficult to read. The Superior Court then goes on to utilize 14 lengthy single-spaced footnotes in its own appellate Opinion.


I send thanks to Attorney Scott Cooper of the Harrisburg, PA law firm of Schmidt Kramer for bringing this case to my attention.  I also send thanks to Attorney Benjamin P. Novak of the Lancaster, Pennsylvania law firm of Fowler, Hirtzel, McNulty & Spaulding, LLP, for bringing this case to my attention. 


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