Schmidt Kramer Partner Scott Cooper is representing the plaintiffs in a lawsuit that recently made it to Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled both sides can present arguments on whether the Superior Court made the right decision to deny stacked UIM coverage in Grix v. Progressive Specialty Insurance.
The Superior Court, composed of a three-judge panel, ruled the plaintiff did not qualify as a resident relative under her parent’s insurance coverage. The court said the woman was in the process of moving out of her parent’s house when her fatal crash happened, which meant she was not entitled to stacked UIM benefits. The panel of judges affirmed the trial court’s ruling in the case and found for the insurance company.
There are two questions the Supreme Court will consider when it hears the case:
- Did the lower court make an error as a matter of law by ruling for the insurer, despite the woman being listed as a household driver on the household insurance policy, being charged a premium and the facts supporting she was a household resident when she died?
- Did the Superior court make an error as a matter of law finding the deceased was not a designated insured who was entitled to stacked coverage, despite being listed on the policy as a driver and household resident, and premiums being charged up until the date she died?
History of the Case
The victim died in a car accident, and her parents wanted to recover stacked benefits from their insurance policy. Unfortunately, the claim was denied – Progressive Specialty Insurance Co. said the victim moved out of her parent’s house six weeks before she died, which meant she was not a resident relative.
The insurer based its decision on the fact the victim was making rental payments on another property, had started moving belongings out of her parents’ house, and was storing things at the new property, such as:
- Art supplies
However, the plaintiffs noted their daughter’s driver’s license had their address, not the address of the rental property. The victim also provided her employer with her parent’s address to be used as her home address and was receiving mail at this address. The victim also had other belongings at her parent’s house, including:
According to Cooper, “An insurance company should not be able to charge a premium for coverage on someone’s daughter who is listed on the policy and then choose to keep the premium but then say she is not covered.”
In mid-2019, Cooper was selected as 2019 Power Player of the Year by The Legal Intelligencer for his work on the Gallagher v. GEICO case, which helped to change Pennsylvania auto insurance law.
The case reached the Supreme Court, which ruled the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law mandates stacking of UIM coverage, unless it is specifically waived. This decision helped to restore benefits to Pennsylvania residents who had been denied stacked benefits for two decades.
In fact, a few months later a federal judge ruled the court’s decision was retroactive, paving the way for people who had been denied benefits to pursue them.
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