participates in MVFRL policy cases
The Amicus Curiae Committee of the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association has been active recently at the Pennsylvania Supreme Court level in several cases involving an insured's rights under the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL). On behalf of our clients and the consumers of Pennsylvania, we have taken the position that several exclusionary clauses in insurance policies are void as against public policy.
On November 28, 2000, the Amicus Committee filed a brief with the Supreme Court in Burstein v. Prudential, involving an exclusion in an insurance policy for injuries sustained in a "regularaly used non-owned car." In Burstein, the plurality opinion of an en banc panel of the Superior Court held that this exclusion violated public policy. The plurality opinion set forth three broad public policies on which the exclusion could be voided: (1) the MVFRL was enacted to establish a liberal compensation scheme of UIM protection; (2) UIM coverage is in the public's best interest; and (3) UIM coverage is first party coverage that follows the person not the vehicle. Amicus Committee member Dale Larrimore wrote the briefs to the en banc panel of the Superior Court and to the Supreme Court on behalf of PaTLA.
The Amicus Committee will be filing two additional briefs with the Supreme Court in March. In the case of Prudential v. Colbert, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court accepted a Petition for Certification of Questions of Law, filed by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, on the issue of whether the definition of "insured" in the Prudential policy is in conflict with the definition of "insured" in the MVFRL, and on the issue of whether the "other household vehicle exclusion" in the Prudential policy is void as against public policy. PaTLA member Matthew Crosby wrote an amicus brief for PaTLA to the Third Circuit on a similar issue in Nationwide v. Riley, and he will be writing the brief to the Supreme Court on behalf of PaTLA in Prudential v. Colbert.
In the case of Kmonk-Sullivan, et al. v. State Farm, et al., the Supreme Court accepted the appeal filed by the defendant insurance carriers from an en banc decision of the Superior Court on the "government vehicle exclusion" in the insurance policies of eleven insurance carriers. The plaintiffs in Kmonk-Sullivan were all passengers on a bus owned by the Port Authority of Allegheny County, who were injured when that bus hit another PAT bus head on. Under statutory sovereign immunity provisions there was a cap on the amount recoverable from PAT. The plaintiff passengers sought UIM benefits from their own insurance carriers, but coverage was denied under a clause in the insurance policies which excluded "government vehicles" from the definition of underinsured vehicles. Amicus Committee member Mitchell Clair wrote the amicus brief for PaTLA to the en banc panel of the Superior Court which held that the government vehicle exclusion violated the terms of the MVFRL and was void as contrary to public policy. Amicus committee member Dale Larrimore is writing the brief to the Supreme Court on behalf of PaTLA.
Back to PaTLA