Nos. 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 March Term, 1979, Appeal from Order of the Superior Court at Nos. 111, 122, 123, 124, 125 April Term, 1977, Dismissing Plaintiff's Appeal, Vacating the Judgments entered for Class Plaintiffs at No. 3642 July Term, 1972, Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County and Remanding.
Michael P. Malakoff, Louise Reiber Malakoff, Berger, Kapetan, Malakoff & Meyers, Pittsburgh, for appellants.
George M. Weis, Weis & Weis, Pittsburgh, for appellee.
Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Manderino, Larsen and Flaherty, JJ. Manderino, J., did not participate in the decision of this case.
This appeal presents two issues regarding class actions. First, we are asked to decide whether a trial court order partially decertifying a class is, for the decertified party, a final judgment. We hold that the order was final with respect to the decertified appellant. Because he brought no appeal within 30 days of the trial court's order, appellant's challenge to the partial decertification is not properly before this Court. The second issue is whether the Superior Court properly vacated judgments in favor of four class members solely on the ground that appellant, the named class representative, had been decertified. We hold that the Superior Court erred in vacating the judgments. Accordingly, we reverse that portion of the order which reversed the trial court judgments in favor of four class members and we direct reinstatement of the judgments in favor of those parties.
While riding a mini bike, the son of appellant, Carl Alessandro, was struck by a car driven by an uninsured motorist. After an arbitration proceeding, appellant was awarded $5,000 under the provisions of his uninsured motorist coverage. Appellee, State Farm, presented appellant a check for $5,000 in satisfaction of the award and sought a release and discharge from all other claims arising from the accident. Appellant did not accept payment, claiming that his insurance
policy provided for the insurer's payment of medical bills in addition to any arbitration award. State Farm refused to pay this additional claim.
Appellant then filed a complaint on behalf of himself and a class of persons similarly situated, challenging the practice of setting off medical payments from an arbitration award.*fn1 The trial court overruled State Farm's preliminary objections challenging the basis of the class.*fn2 Following State Farm's answer, appellant requested the names of other potential class members.*fn3 The trial court sustained State Farm's objections to this request and ordered the entire class decertified. Appellant filed a petition for reconsideration of the order. After argument, the trial court vacated the order and reinstated the class action.*fn4
Upon State Farm's subsequent motion for partial decertification, the trial court limited the class to persons who had obtained arbitration awards of $10,000 or more. Appellant thus was precluded from recovering in this action. The trial court, however, ...