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PENNSYLVANIA INSURANCE DEPARTMENT v. JOHNSON (11/16/67)

decided: November 16, 1967.

PENNSYLVANIA INSURANCE DEPARTMENT
v.
JOHNSON, APPELLANT



Appeals from orders of Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County, Nos. 128 and 129 Commonwealth Docket, 1966, in case of Insurance Department of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania et al. v. Donald R. Johnson.

COUNSEL

Edward O. Spotts, with him James P. Gill, John R. Gavin, and Spotts, Gill, Gavin & Morrow, for appellant.

Charles D. Cowley, Associate Chief Counsel, with him Frederic G. Antoun, Deputy Attorney General, and William C. Sennett, Attorney General, for Insurance Department, appellee.

Robert E. Woodside, with him R. J. Woodside, John N. Reid, and Woodside & Woodside, and Watters, Donovan, Dorsey, Burke & Griffin, for intervening appellees.

Ervin, P. J., Wright, Watkins, Montgomery, Jacobs, Hoffman, and Spaulding, JJ. Opinion by Watkins, J.

Author: Watkins

[ 211 Pa. Super. Page 140]

These are appeals by Donald R. Johnson, the appellant, from the orders of the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County sitting as Commonwealth court, dismissing appeals from adjudications made by the Insurance Commissioner of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania involving certain insurance rate changes concerning automobile liability insurance coverage and automobile physical damage insurance coverage, respectively.

The adjudications made by the Commissioner approved rate filings made by the National Automobile

[ 211 Pa. Super. Page 141]

Underwriters Association, hereinafter referred to as Association, and the National Bureau of Casualty Underwriters, hereinafter referred to as Bureau, under The Casualty and Surety Rate Regulatory Act of June 11, 1947, P. L. 538, 40 P.S. ยง 1181 et seq.

The Bureau and the Association each filed with the Commissioner proposed revisions of their respective Manual Rules and Rates pursuant to the Regulatory Act, supra. By stipulation, both Bureau and Association are made parties appellees to these appeals.

The subject of the rate filing of the Bureau was for automobile liability insurance coverage applicable to bodily injury and property damage and relating to private passenger cars, commercial vehicles, garage risks and medical payment coverage. The subject of the rate filing of the Association was for automobile physical damage coverage and includes with physical damage coverage, comprehensive and collision coverage.

Under Section 4(a) of the Regulatory Act, supra, such filings are not subject to public inspection until the rate filings become effective. However, at the suggestion of the Commissioner and with the agreement of the Association and the Bureau a public hearing was held on each filing and subsequent thereto the Commissioner approved the rate filings to become effective on October 1, 1965.

Complaints were then filed by the appellant under Section 17 of the Act and it was requested that the approval of the rate filings effective October 1, 1965 be stayed pending disposition of a hearing on appellant's complaints. The request for a stay was denied but public hearings were held on the complaints at which all parties were represented by counsel and where various private persons and citizens also appeared. On March 7, 1966, adjudications were made by the Commissioner dismissing the complaints; the appeals by appellant to the Commonwealth court were dismissed. Hence these appeals.

[ 211 Pa. Super. Page 142]

When the decision of the Insurance Commission is against the complainant, as here, the question for the reviewing court is whether the findings of fact are consistent with each other and with its conclusions of law and the Commission's order and whether its decision can be sustained without a capricious disregard of competent evidence. Mettetal Unemployment Compensation Case, 187 Pa. Superior Ct. 291, 293, 144 A.2d 586 (1958).

The fact finder is not required to accept even uncontradicted testimony as true, District of Columbia's Appeal, 343 Pa. 65, 79, 21 A.2d 883 (1941), and the benefit of every inference which can be logically and reasonably drawn from the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the prevailing party. Pennsylvania Insurance Department v. Philadelphia, 196 Pa. Superior Ct. 221, 236, 173 A.2d 811 (1961).

The reviewing court should not interfere where an administrative agency is clothed with discretion in the discharge of its duty unless the record clearly establishes that there has been a violation of positive law or an arbitrary capricious or unreasonable determination due to the absence of substantive evidence to support its findings. Pennsylvania Insurance Department v. Philadelphia, supra, at page 237:

"Insurance rate making is a technical, complicated and involved procedure carried on by trained men. It is not an exact science. Judgment based upon a thorough knowledge of the problem must be applied. Courts cannot abdicate their duty to examine the evidence and the adjudication, and to interpret and apply the law, but they must recognize the value of the judgment of an Insurance Commissioner who is specializing in the field of insurance and ...


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