No. 434 April Term, 1979, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Civil Division, No. G.D. 78-18397.
Mark B. Aronson, Pittsburgh, for appellant.
John Newborg, Pittsburgh, for appellee.
Price, Hester and Cavanaugh, JJ.
[ 280 Pa. Super. Page 39]
The instant appeal presents this court with another opportunity*fn1 to decide a question of first impression*fn2 involving the interrelationship of the Uninsured Motorist Act*fn3 and the Pennsylvania No-fault Motor Vehicle Insurance Act.*fn4 The specific issue raised is whether a company designated as a servicing insurance company under the Pennsylvania Assigned Claims Plan of the No-fault Act (see 40 P.S. § 1009.108) is required to pay not only the basic loss benefits specified by the Act, but also uninsured motorist benefits. We hold that the legislative intent requires inclusion of such payments within the assigned claims plan, and we therefore
[ 280 Pa. Super. Page 40]
reverse the order of the court of common pleas and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
The pertinent facts are as follows. Decedent Jerry Amey died of injuries he received in a motor vehicle collision while riding in an uninsured automobile on October 3, 1977. Appellant, administratrix of the decedent's estate, obtained a default judgment against the driver of the uninsured car, but the driver was unable to satisfy the judgment. Appellant thereafter presented her claim to the Assigned Claims Bureau to obtain benefits under the No-fault Act. Appellee was designated as the assigned participating insurer, and it paid appellant those basic loss benefits prescribed in section 202 of the Act.*fn5 Appellant filed a motion for summary judgment in the court of common pleas, alleging that she was also entitled to uninsured motorist benefits under the assigned claims plan. Appellee filed a cross-motion for summary judgment, and the court of common pleas per order of the Honorable R. Stanton Wettick, granted appellee's cross-motion.
[ 280 Pa. Super. Page 41]
We recognize, at the outset, that the preamble to the No-fault Act proclaims that its purpose, inter alia, is "the maximum feasible restoration of all individuals injured and compensation of the economic losses of the survivors of all individuals killed in motor vehicle accidents on Commonwealth highways." When interpreting this statute, we generally have employed a liberal construction so as to find coverage whenever feasible. As this court noted in Heffner v. Allstate Insurance Co., 265 Pa. Super. 181, 187, 401 A.2d 1160, 1162-63 (1979):
"Historically, the courts of this Commonwealth have routinely . . . found coverage for the insured in close or doubtful cases. The tendency has been that if we should err in ascertaining the intent of the legislature or the intendment of an insurance policy, we should err in favor of coverage for the insured." (footnotes omitted).
Similarly, we and our supreme court have acknowledged that the Uninsured Motorist Act is designed to give monetary protection to that "ever changing and tragically large group of persons who while lawfully using the highways themselves suffer grave injury through the negligent use of those highways by others," Pattani v. Keystone Insurance Co., 426 Pa. 332, 338, 231 A.2d 402, 404 (1967), see Adelman v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., 255 Pa. Super. 116, 386 A.2d 535 (1978), and that the legislative intent in promulgating the Act therefore requires a liberal construction of the statute and a "pronounced propensity . . . to find coverage unless equally strong legal or equitable considerations to the contrary are present." Adelman v. State Farm Mutual Insurance Co., supra, 255 Pa. Super. at 127, 386 A.2d at 540, quoting Sands v. Granite Mutual Insurance Co., ...