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PUSTI v. NATIONWIDE MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY (10/07/64)

October 7, 1964

PUSTI
v.
NATIONWIDE MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, APPELLANT.



Appeal, No. 317, Jan. T., 1963, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County, Jan. T., 1960, No. 892, in case of John J. Pusti, Jr., individually, and John J. Pusti, Jr., administrator of estate of Pauline C. Pusti, deceased, v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. Judgment vacated and entered for $5,000.

COUNSEL

J. Thirwall Griffith, for appellant.

Arthur D. Dalessandro, with him Joseph J. Ustynoski and Anthony C. Falvello, for appellee.

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

Author: Cohen

[ 415 Pa. Page 320]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE COHEN

John J. Pusti, Jr. purchased four automobile collision policies from appellant Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company (Nationwide) in 1958. All were purchased through the same agent and were identical. Each policy covered a separate automobile owned by him. For an additional five dollar premium, each policy had attached to it a family compensation rider.*fn1 Under that rider, Nationwide agreed to pay, irrespective of fault, scheduled benefit amounts for bodily injury, sickness, or death caused by an automobile to the following classes of persons: (Part A) to any person injured by the particular automobile described in the policy; (Part B) to any person injured by the use of any other automobile operated by Insured, his spouse and servants; and (Part C) to Insured, his spouse and certain relatives injured by any other automobile.

[ 415 Pa. Page 321]

Each rider contained the following provision (Limitation Provision): "Payments to or for the benefit of any one person made either under [part] (A), (B), or (C) shall discharge all liability of the Company for Family Compensation Insurance to that person under this or any other policy." (Emphasis supplied).

Pauline C. Pusti, John's mother, was struck and killed by an automobile and John (Administrator) is the administrator of her estate. It is conceded that the estate is entitled to recover only under Part (C). Each family compensation rider provides for a death payment of $5,000. The question raised is whether her estate is entitled to recover $5,000 under each rider for a total of $20,000 or whether her estate is limited to a total recovery of $5,000, i.e., limited to a recovery under one rider only.

The case was submitted to the lower court on the basis of the facts pleaded and admitted. The lower court rendered judgment for the estate in the amount of $20,000 and Nationwide appealed.

We agree with the lower court that the language of the Limitation Provision is clear and express and would normally relieve Nationwide from liability under the additional policy riders. Therefore, if we were involved solely with the interpretation of the insurance contract, there would be no question but that we would be compelled to find that the estate could recover under only one rider.

However, Administrator argues that Nationwide is estopped from asserting the Limitation Provision by its acceptance of the full five dollar premium for each of the riders to the second, third, and fourth policies since it knew of the existence of all the riders and of the Limitation Provision. Administrator bases his estoppel argument on the ...


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