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SYKES v. NATIONWIDE MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY. (03/24/64)

March 24, 1964

SYKES, APPELLANT,
v.
NATIONWIDE MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY.



Appeal, No. 25, Jan. T., 1964, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Lycoming County, May T., 1962, No. 453, in case of Frances Faye Sykes, administratrix of estate of Fred Sykes, deceased, v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. Judgment reversed.

COUNSEL

Sidney A. Simon, for appellant.

John C. Gault, with him Candor, Youngman & Gibson, for appellee.

Before Bell, C.j., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'brien and Roberts, JJ.

Author: Musmanno

[ 413 Pa. Page 641]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE MUSMANNO

Fred Sykes was killed in an accident while driving his own automobile. He carried an insurance policy with the Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company which refused payment of the face value of the policy, plus

[ 413 Pa. Page 642]

    funeral expenses, to the beneficiary named therein, the decedent's widow, because, it contended, the policy excluded coverage of death resulting from circumstances assumed to control here.

Mrs. Sykes, administratrix of the estate of the insured, sued on the policy and the insurance company pleaded, under new matter, an alleged exclusionary clause. The plaintiff answered to the new matter, and the defendant moved for judgment on the pleadings. The motion was granted by the Court of Common Pleas of Lycoming County and the plaintiff has appealed.

The clause in the policy on which the defendant builds its assertion of non-liability and which the Court below accepted as conclusive, reads as follows: "(6) under Coverages D(1) and D(2) for bodily injury to, or sickness or death of any employee while engaged in the employment of any person using, or organization or person legally responsible for the use of, any automobile for which the policy affords protection if benefits therefor are payable or required under any workmen's compensation law."

This paragraph would most assuredly never take a prize in a school of expression for clear and crystalline prose. Ambiguity runs through it like ink poured into a fish bowl, clouding the identity of its swimming occupants. From this clouded bowl of language the insurance company fishes up the conclusion that the exclusion clause was intended to allow coverage only in the event of certain factors which are absent here. The insurance company maintains that the bleary paragraph excludes coverage in any case where the beneficiary receives workmen's compensation.

If this interpretation be correct, the query naturally arises as to why the insurance company did not specifically state that if the named beneficiary receives workmen's compensation no insurance benefits are ...


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