Friday, August 25, 2023

Wife Found to Be Bound By New Husband's Previous Execution of Stacking Waivers on UIM Policy

In the case of Golik v. Erie Insurance Exchange, No. 1110 WDA 2022 (Pa. Super. Aug. 7, 2023 Murray, J., McLaughlin, J. and Pellegrini, J.) (Op. by Murray, J.), the Pennsylvania Superior Court vacated a judgment entered by the trial court in favor of the Plaintiff on an issue involving the stacking of UIM benefits relative to a motor vehicle accident case.

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff-wife joined her husband’s existing automobile insurance policy a year after the couple’s marriage in 2004. The husband had signed stacking waivers once previously in 1998 and again, subsequently, in 2004.

The Plaintiff-wife testified that she did not recall ever seeing or discussing any stacking waivers.

The Plaintiff-wife claimed that she was entitled to stacked benefits because she never signed or even heard about any stacking waivers relative to the insurance policy in question.

The trial court sided with the Plaintiff’s argument, holding that the signature of the policy’s first named insured alone was not enough to allow for a full execution of a waiver of stacked coverage. The trial court ruled that the carrier was required to provide each named insured with a chance to waive stacked coverage. In so ruling, the trial court did concede that there was no binding precedent addressing the issue presented.

On appeal, the Pennsylvania Superior Court determined that, although there was no case law on point, past rulings had suggested that a named insured, even when subsequently added to a policy, is presumed to have known about available options and is bound by the first named insured’s election of a lesser coverage, unless the insured takes affirmative steps to try to change the coverage.

Based upon the evidence in this case, the Superior Court ruled that the Plaintiff-wife had constructive knowledge of the waiver and was bound by her husband’s signature.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court further held that the plain language of §1738 of the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law only required notice to be provided to the named insured who purchased the policy.

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

Source: Article: “Pa. Superior Court Vacates $100K Award of Stacked UM/UIM Coverage for Woman Whose Husband Signed Waiver” By: Elisa Furman. Pennsylvania Law Weekly (Aug. 8, 2023).

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