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BLOCKER v. AETNA CASUALTY AND SURETY COMPANY (01/08/75)

decided: January 8, 1975.

BLOCKER
v.
AETNA CASUALTY AND SURETY COMPANY, APPELLANT



Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County, Jan. T., 1973, No. 695, in case of Nadine Blocker v. Aetna Casualty and Surety Company.

COUNSEL

James K. Thomas, with him James K. Thomas, II, and Metzger, Hafer, Keefer, Thomas & Wood, for appellant.

Richard C. Angino, with him Hurwitz, Klein, Benjamin & Angino, for appellee.

Watkins, P. J., Jacobs, Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort, and Spaeth, JJ. Opinion by Van der Voort, J. Dissenting Opinion by Spaeth, J. Jacobs and Cercone, JJ., join in this dissenting opinion.

Author: Van Der Voort

[ 232 Pa. Super. Page 112]

By this appeal and after reargument, our court is called upon once again to review the issue of the "stacking" or multiplication of insurance coverages. The plaintiff-appellee was a guest passenger in a car operated by an individual insured by the defendant-appellant. The car was involved in a collision with an uninsured motorist, and the plaintiff was injured and suffered damages in excess of $20,000. In addition to the insured car which was involved in the collision, the defendant insured a second car owned by the host driver, which car was not involved in the accident. Both cars were insured under the same policy and both were covered by uninsured motorist insurance in the

[ 232 Pa. Super. Page 113]

    amount of $10,000. The host driver paid a separate premium to the defendant for each car described in the policy for uninsured motorist coverage.

The plaintiff has sought to recover the amount of $20,000 for her damages, in effect, "stacking" the uninsured motorist coverages for the two cars owned by the host driver and allegedly covered by the defendant's policy. The defendant maintains that such "stacking" is improper. Pursuant to the terms of the policy, the plaintiff sought arbitration of this dispute under the provisions of the Pennsylvania Arbitration Act of April 25, 1927, P.L. 381, No. 248, 5 P.S. ยง 161-181. One arbitrator was selected by each party and the two arbitrators then jointly selected a third arbitrator. The arbitrators, after receipt of testimony, briefs and arguments by both parties, ruled unanimously that plaintiff-appellee was entitled to recover $20,000, the total of the two coverages discussed above. Again pursuant to the Arbitration Act of 1927, the defendant-appellant sought, and was granted an appeal by the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County. That court, composed of a five-judge panel sitting en banc, after receipt of briefs and hearing of arguments, unanimously held in favor of plaintiff-appellee in the same amount and under the same dual coverage as had been awarded by the arbitrators.

In the consideration of the present appeal, it is pertinent to note that our court has been aided by the assistance of able arguments by all counsel, excellent briefs from both parties, and a thoroughly reasoned and well written opinion by the court in Dauphin County. In addition, we are confronted by a plethora of legal precedents from not only the courts of our own Commonwealth, but from appellate courts in many other jurisdictions.

[ 232 Pa. Super. Page 114]

The single issue for our determination will of course be resolved by our analysis of the terms and conditions of the insurance policy issued by the appellant. This analysis of an insurance policy, like the interpretation of any other written contract, is a question of law for the court. Bole v. New Hampshire Fire Insurance Company, 159 Pa. 53, 28 A. 205 (1893). The policy must be read in its entirety; it should be construed according to the plain meaning of the words used, so as to avoid ambiguity while at the same time giving effect to all of its provisions. Masters v. Celina Mutual Insurance Company, 209 Pa. Superior Ct. 111, 224 A.2d 774 (1966); Galvin v. Occidental Life Insurance Company, 206 Pa. Superior Ct. 61, 64, 211 A.2d 120, 122 (1965). If it is determined that the language of a policy prepared by an insurer is either ambiguous, obscure, uncertain or susceptible to more than one construction, we must construe that language most strongly against the insurer and accept the construction most favorable to the insured. Patton v. Patton, 413 Pa. 566, 573, 198 A.2d 578, 582 (1964); Flynn v. Allstate Insurance Company, 50 D. & C. 2d 195, 199-200 (1970). Of course, we may not rewrite an insurance contract or construe clear and unambiguous language to mean other than what it says. Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association Insurance Company v. Aetna Casualty and Surety Insurance Company, 426 Pa. 453, 233 A.2d 548 (1967); Holliday v. ...


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