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Pa. Supreme Court validates dual rejection form for UIM coverage

Ruling reverses Superior Court Panel’s decision
in Winslow-Quattlebaum v. Maryland Casualty


In a decision unfavorable to many Pennsylvanians who have purchased automobile insurance coverage, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that an insurance company’s single-page waiver for underinsured motorist coverage and stacking coverage is valid and enforceable. The court’s decision in Winslow-Quattlebaum v. Maryland Casualty reverses the Superior Court Panel’s ruling that different coverage waivers for underinsured motorist coverage or vehicle stacking must be on separate sheets of papers.

“There is nothing in the language of Section 1731(c.1) [of the MVFRL] to suggest that the required rejection statement for UM or UIM coverage must stand alone on a page without any writing,” Justice Russell Nigro wrote for the unanimous court. “Rather, the plain language of this section merely requires that the rejection statement for subsection (b) (UM) coverage appear on a page separate from the rejection statement for subsection (c) (UIM) coverage.”

“In order to be valid, UM or UIM rejection forms must comply with the requirements of Section 1731(c.1) as follows: the UIM rejection must appear on a sheet separate from the UM rejection; the first named insured must sign the rejection; and the rejection must be dated.”
The plaintiff in the case, Deborah Winslow-Quattlebaum, was injured in an automobile accident that was caused by an underinsured tortfeasor. Her insurer denied underinsured motorist coverage because she had signed an underinsured motorist coverage rejection form. The Court of Common Pleas granted the insurer summary judgment and Ms. Winslow-Quattlebaum appealed to the Superior Court.

Although Ms. Winslow-Quattlebaum signed an underinsured motorist coverage rejection form that was consistent with 75 Pa.C.S.A. �1731, a rejection of stacked underinsured coverage limits form was also included on the same sheet. The insured argued that the rejection form was void under 75 Pa.C.S.A. �1731(c.1). Section 1731(c.1) provides that insurers must print an underinsured rejection form on a separate sheet. If this is not done, the rejection form is void.

The Superior Court held that because the underinsured rejection form also contained the form necessary for rejection of stacked underinsured coverage, it did not comply with the statutory language requiring the rejection to be on a separate sheet of paper. The court was aware of federal district court case law contrary to its decision, but noted that the federal decisions did not bind state courts. Accordingly, the trial court’s order granting summary judgment was reversed.n

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