No. 1708 Philadelphia, 1981, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Action-Law, of Susquehanna County at No. 1979-1596.
Charles A. Shaffer, Wilkes-Barre, for appellant.
Edward Pope Little, Montrose, for appellee.
Wickersham, Rowley and McEwen, JJ.
[ 301 Pa. Super. Page 148]
This is yet another case in which our court is called upon to untangle the knotted language of the Pennsylvania No-Fault Motor Vehicle Insurance Act.*fn1 The issue in this appeal involves the construction of the statute of limitations provisions contained in section 106(c)(2) of the No-Fault Act.
The facts of this case may be summarized as follows. On March 4, 1977, appellee's spouse, James W. Guiton, was killed in an automobile accident. At the time of the accident, James Guiton was covered by a no-fault insurance policy issued by appellant, Pennsylvania National Mutual Casualty Insurance Company. Following the accident, appellee, Blanche M. Guiton submitted a claim to appellant for no-fault benefits. On August 4, 1977, appellant paid Blanche Guiton $1,500.00 for funeral expenses, and $10.00 for ambulance expenses, and in October of 1977, appellant made a final payment to Blanche Guiton of $5,000.00 for survivor's loss benefits.
On November 26, 1979, Blanche Guiton instituted suit against appellant by filing a praecipe for writ of summons, and on January 7, 1980, she filed a complaint in assumpsit against appellant seeking work loss benefits under her deceased spouse's no-fault insurance policy. Appellant filed an answer and new matter to Blanche Guiton's complaint in which it raised the defense of the statute of limitations provisions contained in section 106(c)(2) of the No-Fault Act. After the pleadings were closed, appellant filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings in which it again raised the defense of the statute of limitations. The lower court denied appellant's motion for judgment on the pleadings by order dated May 17, 1981, but certified the order for immediate appeal to our court in accordance with 42 Pa.C.S. § 702(b). Thereafter, appellant petitioned our court for permission to take an immediate appeal from the lower court's order in accordance with Pa.R.A.P. 1311, and we granted the petition by order dated July 9, 1981.
[ 301 Pa. Super. Page 149]
Section 106(c)(2) of the No-Fault Act provides in pertinent part that "If survivor's benefits have been paid to any survivor, an action for further survivor's benefits by either the same or another claimant may be commenced not later than two years after the last payment of benefits." In the instant case, appellant made a final payment to Blanche Guiton of $5,000.00 for survivor's loss benefits in October of 1977, and Blanche Guiton commenced the instant action for work loss benefits on November 26, 1979 -- more than two years later.
The lower court found that the limitation contained in section 106(c)(2) on actions for further survivor's benefits applies only to actions for further survivor's loss benefits and does not apply to subsequent actions for work loss benefits. The lower court found no limitation in the No-Fault Act on actions for work loss benefits and, consequently, held that the six year limitation period applicable to general contract actions governed this action for work loss benefits. We agree with the findings and holding of the lower court.
In construing the language of the No-Fault Act we are aided by a statement of Legislative findings and purposes. The General Assembly found that "the maximum feasible restoration of all individuals injured and compensation of the economic losses of survivors of all individuals killed in motor vehicle accidents on Commonwealth highways, in intrastate commerce, and in activity affecting intrastate commerce is essential to the humane and purposeful functioning of commerce". 40 P.S. § 1009.102(a)(3). It therefore declared its purpose "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). Additionally, ...