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ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY v. DELORES HEFFNER (09/22/80)

decided: September 22, 1980.

ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY, APPELLANT,
v.
DELORES HEFFNER, APPELLEE. HOMER S. PONTIUS, ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF JANET A. PONTIUS, DECEASED, APPELLEE, V. UNITED STATES FIDELITY AND GUARANTY COMPANY, APPELLANT



No. 80-3-372, Appeal from the Order of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania at No. 2145, October Term 1977, Reversing the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County at No. 3406 November Term 1976 In Assumpsit, No. 73 May Term, 1979, Appeal from the Order of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania dated July 3, 1979, docketed to No. 80 March Term, 1978, reversing the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County of April 7, 1978, to No. 2702 S, 1977

COUNSEL

James M. Marsh, Philadelphia, for Allstate Ins. Co.

Ira Silverstein, Philadelphia, for Delores Heffner.

Richard C. Angino, Harrisburg, for Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Ass'n and Homer S. Pontius.

Jeffrey A. Less, Philadelphia, for Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania, etc.

F. Lee Shipman, James W. Evans, Harrisburg, for United States Fidelity & Guaranty Co.

Nix, Justice. Kauffman, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case. Larsen, J., concurred in the result.

Author: Nix

[ 491 Pa. Page 448]

OPINION

Both of these appeals present the question of the extent of benefits available under the Pennsylvania No-Fault Motor Vehicle Insurance Act*fn1 to the survivors of persons fatally injured in automobile accidents. For the reasons that follow, we will sustain the orders of the Superior Court.

I.

The husband of appellee, Delores Heffner, was killed when the car he was driving struck a utility pole. No other vehicles or persons were involved in this accident. The deceased was the holder of an Allstate Motor Vehicle Insurance

[ 491 Pa. Page 449]

Policy which provided him with coverage in accordance with the No-Fault Act. Appellee Heffner applied for benefits under the decedent's Allstate insurance policy, seeking to recover funeral expenses, "survivor's loss" benefits, and "work loss" benefits. These latter two categories are statutorily defined benefits under the Act, and will be discussed below. Appellant, Allstate Insurance Company, agreed to pay both the funeral expenses and the survivor's loss benefits, but denied recovery on the work loss benefits claim. Appellee Heffner subsequently filed a complaint in assumpsit against Allstate seeking to recover the work loss benefits. The Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County entered an order granting judgment on the pleadings in favor of Allstate, thereby denying appellee Heffner's claim. The Superior Court reversed the Court of Common Pleas, 265 Pa. Super. 181, 401 A.2d 1160 (1979), holding that work loss benefits were available to Mrs. Heffner.*fn2 We granted Allstate's petition for allowance of appeal pursuant to 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 724.

Appellee Homer Pontius is the administrator of the estate of Janet A. Pontius, who was killed in an automobile accident. The decedent was insured under an automobile policy issued by appellant, United States Fidelity and Guaranty Company (USF&G), in accordance with the No-Fault Act. USF&G paid the statutory "survivor's loss" benefits to the qualifying survivors, but rejected the estate's claim for "work loss" benefits under the Act. The estate brought suit in the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County seeking work loss benefits. That court sustained USF&G's preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer to the complaint. 100 Dauphin 133 (1978). The Superior Court reversed in an unreported opinion, based solely upon its opinion in the Heffner case. We granted USF&G's petition for

[ 491 Pa. Page 450]

    allowance of appeal and consolidated argument on this case with that on Heffner.*fn3

II.

This Court must start from the position that its duty "is to ascertain and effectuate the intention of the General Assembly," so that full effect is given to every provision of a statute, if possible. 1 Pa.C.S.A. § 1921(a) (1980-81 pamphlet).

In enacting the No-Fault Act, the General Assembly expressly declared that "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, . . . is essential to the humane and purposeful functioning of commerce." 40 P.S. § 1009.102(a)(3) (emphasis added). Furthermore, "it is hereby declared to be the policy of the General Assembly to establish . . . a statewide system of prompt and adequate basic loss benefits for motor vehicle accident victims and the survivors of deceased victims," 40 P.S. § 1009.102(b) (emphasis added). The legislature has provided definitions for the terms with which we must interpret the No-Fault Act.*fn4 The following definitions contained

[ 491 Pa. Page 451]

    in Article I are required in order to resolve the issue presently before us:

" Allowable expenses " means reasonable charges incurred for, or the reasonable value of (where no charges are incurred), reasonably needed and used products, services, and accommodations for:

(A) professional medical treatment ...


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