We are excited to announce partner Scott Cooper has been named 2019 Power Player of the Year by The Legal Intelligencer. Cooper’s selection was noted in the June 2019 edition of The Legal Intelligencer, which reveals the winners of the 2019 Professional Excellence Awards.
The goal of giving out these awards is to highlight attorneys who made an impact in either the legal community, broader Pennsylvania community, or in the lives or businesses of individual clients.
The June edition features a short interview with Cooper, along with background on his argument before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Gallagher v. Geico, which resulted in a decision that helped reshape Pennsylvania auto insurance law.
The question in the case was whether the household exclusion present in many insurance policies in the state took away coverage that was mandated by statute. Cooper had discussed this problem for years and waited for a time he thought justices on the state’s supreme court would hear the argument.
The case came about after a man was hit by a car while riding his motorcycle. He had two insurance policies: one for his motorcycle and another for his two cars. The man thought this allowed him to stack the underinsured motorist coverage in both policies, increasing his total amount of coverage.
Unfortunately, the insurance company disallowed stacking due to its household exclusion. If the insurer was allowed to use this exclusion, it would mean the victim had essentially paid for coverage that he would not be able to use.
Cooper’s issue with this type of exclusion was that it was essentially a waiver of coverage that was mandated by law. The Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law mandates the stacking of underinsured motorist coverage unless this is specifically waived.
In a January ruling, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court agreed with Scott Cooper’s argument and said the insurer’s exclusion violated the law. This gave the victim access to $200,000 worth of insurance coverage. The court's decision restores insurance benefits for Pennsylvania residents who had been denied these benefits for more than 20 years.
In April, a federal judge ruled the Supreme Court’s decision should apply retroactively to policyholders who were denied stacking coverage. This could have an impact on several class action lawsuits, including class actions filed against major insurance companies like Geico, Allstate and USAA. The purpose of these class actions is to secure compensation for people whose stacking benefits were denied because of the household exclusion.
In his interview for The Legal Intelligencer, Cooper said the case had an excellent set of facts to argue, allowing him to argue that the household exclusion violated the law.
Congratulations to Scott Cooper on his efforts to reshape auto insurance law in Pennsylvania.