No. 2145 October Term. 1977, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Trial Division, Law, No. 3406, November Term, 1976, in Assumpsit.
Ira Silverstein, Philadelphia, for appellant.
James M. Marsh, Philadelphia, for appellee.
Jacobs, President Judge, and Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort, Spaeth and Hester, JJ. Van der Voort, J., files a concurring opinion in which Spaeth, J., joins. Price, J. notes his dissent. Jacobs, former President Judge, and Hoffman, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.
[ 265 Pa. Super. Page 183]
The instant appeal arises from the lower court's granting a motion for summary judgment in favor of the defendant Allstate Insurance Company. In granting the motion the lower court determined that Mrs. Heffner, whose husband was fatally injured when the automobile he was driving flipped over and collided with a utility pole, was entitled to recover from Allstate only the survivor's loss benefit of $5,000 and the funeral expense benefits provided according to Pennsylvania's No-Fault Motor Vehicle Insurance Act, 40 P.S. § 1009.101 et seq. (Supp. 1978). Mrs. Heffner contended that she was additionally entitled to receive the work loss benefits her husband indisputably would have received had he been permanently injured, rather than killed, in the accident. Having thoroughly considered both sides of this
[ 265 Pa. Super. Page 184]
novel argument,*fn1 we conclude that the lower court's decision was in error. Consequently, we will reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
At the outset we caution anyone who embarks on the high seas of Pennsylvania's No-Fault Motor Vehicle Insurance Act not to do so without a good compass, a knowledge of reefs and storms and plenty of food and water. Any attempt to choose an alternate route by land in an effort to unlock the secrets of the Act will encounter mazes of paths, pitfalls, underbrush and dead ends. In attempting to explain what should be the rudimentary "work loss" compensatory scheme, no less an experienced guide than the Pennsylvania Bar Institute was forced to conclude that the Act is impenetrable. In its book, Pennsylvania No-Fault Motor Vehicle Insurance Act -- Practice Under the Act (Pub. # 61, 1975), PBI unequivocally asserts:
"It is not possible to determine with any degree of certainty the amount of work loss benefits required to be paid under the act. . . . The act is essentially incapable of execution since there are at least four possible interpretations of how 'basic loss benefits' for 'work loss' are calculated. None of the interpretations properly use all of the act and the provisions are apparently totally irreconcilable." Id. at 22.
With these difficulties in mind, we turn to the resolution of the instant controversy.
In essence, appellant's argument is a simple syllogism: The No-Fault Motor Vehicle Insurance Act provides that survivors of deceased victims are entitled to receive basic loss benefits;*fn2 "Work loss" is adumbrated under the Act as a particular kind of basic loss;*fn3 Therefore, as a survivor of a deceased victim, Mrs. Heffner ...