No. 43 Harrisburg 1981, No. 184 Harrisburg 1981, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Action, of Dauphin County at No. 5349 S 1979.
Richard C. Angino, Harrisburg, for appellant.
Jeffrey B. Rettig, Harrisburg, for Erie, appellee (at No. 43).
Clyde W. McIntyre, Harrisburg, for Erie, appellee (at No. 184).
Edward E. Knauss, Harrisburg, for CNA, et al., appellees.
Wickersham, Rowley and Watkins, JJ. Wickersham, J., did not participate in the decision or consideration of this case.
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These are consolidated appeals arising out of a class action suit instituted by C. William Nye, Jr. (hereinafter Nye),
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against Erie Insurance Exchange (hereinafter Erie) and thirty other insurance companies. These appeals were taken respectively from the lower court's orders dated February 4, 1981, dismissing the complaint as to all of the defendants except Erie (No. 43 Harrisburg 1981), and June 4, 1981 (No. 184 Harrisburg 1981) dismissing the complaint as to Erie. We will address the appeals separately in the order in which they were taken.
Nye is the administrator of the estate of his deceased daughter, Karen L. Nye, who was killed in an automobile accident December 21, 1978. At the time of the accident, Karen Nye was covered by a no-fault motor vehicle insurance policy issued by Erie. Following Karen Nye's death, Nye submitted a claim to Erie for work loss benefits, but the claim was refused. Thereafter, on November 15, 1979, Nye, acting as the administrator for his daughter's estate, instituted a class action suit against Erie and thirty other insurance companies which allegedly followed a practice of refusing to pay work loss benefits to the estates of deceased victims.
All of the defendants except Erie filed preliminary objections to the complaint in which they argued that because Karen Nye did not have a contract of insurance with them, her personal representative did not have a cause of action against them and, therefore, he also lacked standing to represent a class of plaintiffs in an action against them. The lower court accepted this argument and, on February 4, 1981, it entered an order dismissing the complaint as to all of the defendants except Erie. The first appeal followed.
The lower court based its decision to dismiss the complaint as to all the defendants except Erie on its belief that prudent judicial policy requires that a plaintiff have a direct adversarial relationship with the defendant. The court below was persuaded by the analysis of a federal decision limiting class actions to cases where the plaintiff had such a direct relationship with the defendant. See Weiner v. Bank of King of ...