No. 726 Pittsburgh, 1980, Appeal from Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Beaver County, No. 281 of 1979
Harvery W. Daniels, Monroeville, submitted a brief on behalf of appellant.
Richard Urick, Aliquippa, for appellee.
Wickersham, Wieand and Beck, JJ.
[ 302 Pa. Super. Page 536]
If an insurer pays no-fault benefits to an uninsured owner/occupant of a motor vehicle pursuant to an assigned claim, may the insurer thereafter recover such payments in an action filed against the same, uninsured owner/occupant under Section 501 of the Pennsylvania No-fault Motor Vehicle Insurance Act?*fn1 The trial court held that there could be no recovery and sustained preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer to the insurer's complaint. We reverse.
Jean Miklavic Schuck, the defendant-appellee, was injured when the vehicle which she owned and which she was operating was struck in the rear by another vehicle. As a result of injuries received in the accident, she incurred medical expenses of $365.00 and sustained a wage loss of $1,345.14. The vehicle which she owned and was operating was uninsured. Therefore, her claim for "basic loss benefits" was assigned to Harleysville Mutual Insurance Company, the plaintiff-appellant, under Section 108 of the Pennsylvania No-fault Motor Vehicle Insurance Act, 40 P.S. § 1009.108. After appellant had paid the claim, it commenced an action in assumpsit against appellee to recover the payments which it had made.
Section 501 of the Pennsylvania No-fault Motor Vehicle Insurance Act is unambiguous. It provides:
The obligor obligated to pay basic loss benefits for accidental bodily injury to a person occupying a motor vehicle, the owner of which is uninsured pursuant to this act or to the spouse or relative resident in the household of the owner or registrant of such motor vehicle, shall be entitled to recover all the benefits paid and appropriate loss or adjustments costs incurred from the owner or registrant of such motor vehicle or from his estate. The failure of
[ 302 Pa. Super. Page 537]
the person to make payment within thirty days shall be grounds for suspension or revocation of his motor vehicle registration and operator's license.
This section permits an insurer who has paid "basic loss benefits" to an occupant of an uninsured vehicle to recover the benefits so paid from the owner of the vehicle. In the instant case, the owner of the uninsured vehicle was also the occupant to whom basic loss benefits had been paid by the obligor-insurer. Because those benefits did not exceed the statutorily created threshold,*fn2 a common law action against the third party tortfeasor could not be maintained. Under such circumstances, must the ultimate loss be borne by the insurer to whom the claim has been assigned or, as appellant urges, by the uninsured owner/operator who has failed to comply with the statutory mandate to purchase insurance coverage for his or her vehicle?
Appellee argues, and the trial court concluded, that the legislature could not reasonably have intended that the insurer be able to recover benefits paid to an uninsured owner/occupant because to allow such recovery would render illusory the payment of basic loss benefits. We disagree. A similar argument was rejected by Judge Kalish of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County in General Accident Group v. Doctorovitz, 13 Pa.D. & ...