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CHRISTINE T. HABECKER AND HARRY L. HABECKER v. NATIONWIDE INSURANCE COMPANY (05/14/82)

filed: May 14, 1982.

CHRISTINE T. HABECKER AND HARRY L. HABECKER, HER HUSBAND, APPELLANTS,
v.
NATIONWIDE INSURANCE COMPANY, APPELLEE



No. 116 HARRISBURG, 1981, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division of Dauphin County at No. 822-S-1980.

COUNSEL

Lee C. Swartz, Harrisburg, for appellants.

Mary Jane Forbes, Harrisburg, for appellee.

Brosky, McEwen and Beck, JJ.

Author: Beck

[ 299 Pa. Super. Page 465]

This appeal from a motion granting summary judgment to the insurer appellee presents an issue of statutory construction involving the time span over which an insurer will be liable for "replacement services" payments provided under Section 202(c) of the Pennsylvania No-Fault Motor Vehicle Insurance Act, 40 P.S. § 1009.202(c).

Again, this court is asked to interpret ambiguous language in the No-Fault Act. "Replacement services loss" is defined as "expenses reasonably incurred in obtaining ordinary and necessary services in lieu of those the victim would have performed, not for income, but for the benefit of himself or his family if he had not been injured." 40 P.S. § 1009.103. Section 202(c) provides that "[r]eplacement services loss . . . shall be provided up to a daily maximum of twenty-five dollars ($25) for an aggregate period of one year."*fn1

The appellant insured, Christine T. Habacker, contends that she suffered serious injury in an automobile accident. As a result of her injury, she was unable to perform her usual housework. She hired a housekeeper initially on a daily basis and then for one or two days each week. The

[ 299 Pa. Super. Page 466]

    insurer reimbursed her for housekeeping expenses incurred during the twelve months after her accident. However, her injuries were long lasting. Even after a year from the date of the accident, she continued to need replacement services. The insurer, however, refused her requests for further reimbursements.

The trial court granted summary judgment to the insurer finding that the statute required replacement services payments for only one calendar year from the date of the accident. The appellant contends that under the No-Fault Act, she is entitled to reimbursement for three hundred sixty-five days of such services, even when these replacement services days occur more than a year after her injuries. We agree with the appellant and accordingly reverse.

This case requires this Court to construe for the first time the meaning of the phrase "daily maximum of twenty-five dollars ($25) for an aggregate period of one year." (emphasis added). If the word "aggregate" was not included in the statutory language, it would be clear that reimbursement would be limited to a single one year stretch of time. However, the inclusion of the word "aggregate" raises an ambiguity as to what the phrase means and what the Legislature intended.

Under the Statutory Construction Act of 1972, we are required to construe statutory words and phrases "according to rules of grammar and according to their common or approved usage." 1 Pa.C.S.A. § 1903; Commonwealth v. Hill, 481 Pa. 37, 391 A.2d 1303 (1978). The term "aggregate," used as an adjective, means "formed by a collection of units or particles into a body, mass, or amount . . ." Webster's Third New International Dictionary, 41. See Estate of J. Henry Miller, Deceased, 110 Pa. Super. 384, 386; 168 A. 807 (1933). This word, therefore, can only modify a noun denoting something ...


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