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TRAVELERS INDEMNITY COMPANY AMERICA v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (12/31/81)

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: December 31, 1981.

TRAVELERS INDEMNITY COMPANY OF AMERICA, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, INSURANCE DEPARTMENT, RESPONDENT

Appeals from the Order of the Insurance Commissioner in case of In Re: Appeal of Travelers Insurance Company pursuant to the Act of June 5, 1968, P.L. 140, No. 78, as amended (40 P.S. §§ 1008.1 et seq.), Policy No. 161-42-935-101-2, Robert, J. Clark, Docket No. P79-7-4; and in case of In Re: Appeal of Travelers Indemnity Company pursuant to the Act of June 5, 1968, P.L. 140, No. 78, as amended (40 P.S. §§ 1008.1 et seq.), Policy No. 18520289-101-2, Joseph Koch, Docket No. P79-7-2.

COUNSEL

S. Walter Foulkrod, III, Foulkrod, Peters, Frank & Wasilefski, for petitioner.

Hannah Leavitt, Assistant Attorney General, with her James R. Farley, Assistant Attorney General, and Edward R. Biester, Jr., Attorney General, for respondent.

President Judge Crumlish and Judges Mencer, Rogers, Blatt, Craig, MacPhail and Palladino. Opinion by President Judge Crumlish.

Author: Crumlish

[ 63 Pa. Commw. Page 544]

Travelers Indemnity Company of America appeals two Insurance Commission orders directing Travelers to renew two automobile insurance policies. We affirm.

Travelers refused to renew two policies based on Sections 3(a) and 3(b) of the Act of June 5, 1968, P.L. 140, as amended, 40 P.S. § 1008.3, which provides in part:

(a) No insurer shall cancel or refuse to write or renew a policy of automobile insurance for one or more of the following reasons:

(1) Age.

(13) Any accident which occurred under the following circumstances:

(i) auto lawfully parked (if the parked vehicle rolls from the parked position then any such accident is charged to the person who parked the auto);

(ii) the applicant, owner or other resident operator is reimbursed by, or on behalf of, a person who is responsible for the accident or has judgment against such person;

(iii) auto is struck in the rear by another vehicle and the applicant or other resident operator has not been convicted of a moving traffic violation in connection with this accident.

(14) Any claim under the comprehensive portion of the policy unless such loss was intentionally caused by the insured.

(b) No insurer shall cancel or refuse to renew a policy of automobile insurance on the basis of one accident within the thirty-six month period prior to the upcoming anniversary date of the policy. (Emphasis added.)

[ 63 Pa. Commw. Page 545]

Both policies were non-renewed because the insureds were involved in more than one incident listed in Section 3(a) and one accident described in Section 3(b).

Our scope of review of an Insurance Commission order is limited to a determination of whether constitutional rights have been violated, an error of law was committed or the findings of fact were not supported by substantial evidence, Crown Life Insurance Co. v. Department of Insurance, 39 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 94, 394 A.2d 1305 (1978).

Travelers first contends that Section 3(a) merely prohibits non-renewal based on a single reason listed, but allows refusal to renew based on more than one circumstance enumerated. In effect, Travelers would have us substitute the word "one" for "any" in Section 3(a)(13) and (14). We find this interpretation patently absurd. It is clear that the wording and intent of this statute prohibits an insurer from canceling, or refusing to write or renew a policy for any, whether it be one or more of the reasons listed in this section. These reasons and incidents constitute either immutable characteristics such as age*fn1 and race or are incidents which were not the fault of the insured, or for which the insurer was not required to make any payment.*fn2

[ 63 Pa. Commw. Page 546]

Alternatively, Travelers asserts that it may refuse to renew for a combination of Section 3(a) incidents and one Section 3(b) accident. Travelers contends that the word "accident" in Section 3(b) should be read to include Section 3(a) accidents and incidents. We disagree.

Section 3(b) is clear, an insurer may not cancel or refuse to renew for one accident within the statutory period. We are persuaded by the language contained on page nine of the Commissioner's opinion dated January 3, 1980:

[I]f an accident is specifically listed as prohibited basis for termination under § 3(a)(13) or any other section of the law, it should not be interpreted as a valid basis under another section, including § 3(b). Thus the combination of one accident covered exclusively under § 3(b) and any number of accidents covered under § 3(a) does not provide a valid basis for non-renewal under the Act.

In both cases at issue, there was only one Section 3(b) accident attributable to the insured. Travelers urges a construction of this statute which would penalize an insured for circumstances or incidents over which he has no control. We will not contravene the plain language and intent of the statute.*fn3

Affirmed.

[ 63 Pa. Commw. Page 547]

Order

The orders of the Insurance Commissioner, No. P79-7-2 dated December 21, 1979, and No. P79-7-4 dated January 3, 1980, are affirmed.

Disposition

Affirmed.


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