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SHISHKO v. STATE FARM INS. CO.

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA


December 21, 1982

TIMOTHY SHISHKO
v.
STATE FARM INSURANCE COMPANY

The opinion of the court was delivered by: LORD

MEMORANDUM

 Lord, S.J., District Judge.

 I. Facts

 On November 2, 1979, in Chester, Pennsylvania, plaintiff was struck by a car operated by defendant's insured, Gregory P. Schreder. Plaintiff filed a claim under Schreder's Pennsylvania no-fault insurance policy with State Farm. Defendant has admitted that plaintiff is covered by the policy and has paid the first $50,000 of plaintiff's medical expenses, but has refused to pay for any medical expenses incurred by the plaintiff exceeding $50,000. The only question at issue is whether plaintiff is entitled to unlimited medical benefits under the policy. Presently, plaintiff lives with his family in Plainview, New York, although at the time of the accident he was attending Widener College in Chester, Pennsylvania.

 II. Procedural Setting

 The procedural posture of this case defies normal description. The case was scheduled for a non-jury trial on September 24, 1982. On September 23, 1982, plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment. The next day at trial, I heard argument on whether Section 110(c) *fn1" of the Pennsylvania No-Fault Motor Vehicle Insurance Act, 40 P.S. § 1009.101 et seq., as incorporated into the insurance contract, requires New York's Comprehensive Automobile Insurance Reparations Act, 27 McKinney's C.L.N.Y. § 670 et seq., to govern the medical benefits Mr. Shishko can recover. Both sides agreed that section 671.1 *fn2" of the New York statute, if applicable, would limit plaintiff's medical benefits to fifty thousand dollars. Defendant argued that if plaintiff were a New York domiciliary at the time of the accident the choice of law provision of the Pennsylvania act would require that section 671.1 of the New York act would apply. Plaintiff disagreed. He argued that the contract, not the statutes, governs and even if plaintiff were a New York domiciliary the contract clearly would provide unlimited medical benefits.

 Both sides agreed that if Mr. Shishko were a Pennsylvania domiciliary on the date of the accident, the defendant would be liable for unlimited medical benefits. From the evidence produced at trial I have decided that plaintiff was a New York domiciliary on the date of the accident. Therefore, I must decide the more difficult question of whether the contract, as it incorporates the Pennsylvania act, provides unlimited medical benefits to a New York domiciliary.

 Because I had decided that plaintiff was a New York domiciliary, on December 10, 1982, I heard reargument in light of Swezey v. The Home Indemnity Company, 691 F.2d 163 (3d Cir., 1982).

 In this opinion, I will first set forth the findings of fact and conclusions of law I have reached after considering the domicile evidence presented on September 24, 1982. Next, by consent of the parties, I will treat the contract issue as an action for declaratory judgment.

 III. Domicile

 At birth, a child acquires the domicile of his father. Restatement (Second) of Conflicts, § 14 (1971). Once the individual has reached the age of majority, he may change his domicile by voluntarily establishing a new residence "with a present intention to make it either his permanent home or his home for the indefinite future." In re Estate of McKinley, 461 Pa. 731, 734, 337 A.2d 851, 853 (1975). See also Krasnov v. Dinan, 465 F.2d 1298 (3d Cir. 1972). *fn3"

 Because a domicile continues until a new domicile is established, an individual asserting a change of domicile has the burden of proving both physical presence and an intent to remain indefinitely. Restatement (Second) of Conflicts, § 19 (1971), Petition of Wagner, 381 Pa. 107, 112 A.2d 352 (1955).

 Mr. Shishko has not met this burden. Shishko's uncontroverted testimony that he lived in Chester, Pennsylvania while he attended Widener College satisfies the first requirement of domicile: he had taken up residence in Pennsylvania before the accident. He has not proven, however, that he had the intent to remain in Pennsylvania indefinitely. Besides the individual's assertion of an intent to remain, a court must consider objective factors, Blue v. National Fuel Gas Distribution Corp., 437 F. Supp. 715 (W.D. Pa.) aff'd 601 F.2d 573 (3d Cir. 1977). Moreover, an out-of-state student is presumed to lack the intention necessary to establish a new domicile. 13 Wright, Miller & Cooper, Federal Practice and Procedure, § 3619 (1975). Although Mr. Shishko stated at trial that at the time of the accident he intended to finish school and seek employment "in the area," objective factors strongly suggest that Mr. Shishko had no intention of remaining in Pennsylvania. Shishko's trial testimony established that he was a twenty-year-old college junior when the accident occurred. He had lived in the college dormitories during his freshman and sophomore years and had returned "home" (his word) to his parents' house in Plainview, New York, to work during the summers of 1978 and 1979. During his junior year, when the accident occurred, Shishko was living in a university-owned apartment complex. His parents were paying for his education. His student bills were mailed to his parents' home in New York. He had a New York driver's license. He had never applied for a Pennsylvania driver's license. He filed tax returns to the state of New York as a New York resident in 1977 and 1978. He listed his parents' New York address as his address on his federal income tax returns for 1978 and he had a savings account in a New York bank.

 From the above facts, it is clear that Shishko was a New York domiciliary.

 IV. The Insurance Contract

 In Swezey, supra, the Third Circuit interpreted § 1009.110(c)(1) of the Pennsylvania no-fault statute. The court held that the contract, which incorporated section 110(c) of the Pennsylvania no-fault act, required that a Delaware domiciliary medical benefits be determined by the no-fault plan in effect in Delaware. The court stressed that the case did not involve a conflicts of law question but a simple contract claim based on an insurance policy. Swezey, 691 F.2d 163, slip op. at 5. The terms of the policy, therefore, would determine the outcome of the case. An insurance contract that is written in accordance with the Pennsylvania no-fault law incorporates the statute so that the Pennsylvania act becomes a term of the contract, but the statute does "not acquire any independent controlling effect." Id. "The incorporation of state statutes does not alter the contractual nature of the claim and the issue remains one of interpreting the policy." Id.

 Following the mandate of Swezey, supra, I must look to the policy to determine whether its terms require a fifty thousand dollar limitation on the medical benefits Shishko can recover.

 The relevant portion of section II of the policy states:

 

What We Pay

 

We will pay in accordance with the No-Fault Act for bodily injury to an insured,4 caused by accident resulting from the maintenance or use of a motor vehicle as a vehicle:

 

1. Medical Expenses. Reasonable charges incurred for necessary products, services and accommodations needed for:

 

a. Professional medical, dental, hospital and nursing services for diagnosis, care, and recovery . . . .

 The words "in accordance with the No-Fault Act " incorporate all the provisions of the Pennsylvania no-fault law into the contract.

 Section 110(c) provides that the basic loss benefits *fn5" available to a victim shall be determined pursuant to the state no-fault plan in effect in the state of domicile of the victim on the date when the motor vehicle accident resulting in injury occurs. 40 P.S. § 1009.110(c)(1). Because I have found that Mr. Shishko was a New York domiciliary, I must look to New York law to determine whether the New York plan is a no-fault plan as defined by the regulations in 31 Pa. Code § 66.41(b)(2). Swezey, supra, slip op. at 7. If it is a no-fault plan, I must determine the basic loss benefits provided by the New York plan.

 Both sides concede that the Comprehensive Automobile Insurance Reparations Act is a no-fault plan. As required by Pennsylvania regulations, it provides for compulsory automobile insurance (§ 672(1)); first party benefits (§ 672(1)) and a restriction on the right to bring action for non-economic detriment (§ 673(1)). Because the New York act is a no-fault plan, section 110(c)(1) as incorporated into the policy "restricts the amount recoverable, but does not eliminate . . . entitlement to benefits under the insurance contract." Swezey, supra, slip op. at 9. Section 671(1) of the New York act restricts "basic economic loss" to fifty thousand dollars. Medical expenses are included in "basic economic loss."

 If the policy in question here were virtually the same as that in Swezey, supra, my analysis would end here. There is, however, a crucial difference between the policies.

 In Swezey, supra, the policy provided that:

 

In accordance with Pennsylvania No-Fault Motor Vehicle Insurance Act, the Company will pay any or all personal injury protection benefits for: (a) medical expenses, . . . for bodily injury to an eligible person due to an accident resulting from the . . . use of a motor vehicle . . . .

 The portion of the State Farm policy that I have just discussed parallels the language of the Swezey policy. The policy in this case, however, contains an additional section not encountered in the Swezey policy. It includes a portion entitled Limits of Liability. The Limits of Liability portion is laid out as follows:

 

Limits of Liability.

 

1. The Most We Pay.

 

a. The most we pay for each insured is limited to the amounts shown in the schedule for your coverage symbol.

 

* * * * * * * * *

 

2. Schedule.

  Medical Work Loss Expenses Monthly Total Maximum Maximum Coverage Any Symbol Other Each You Insureds Insured P40 through P46 No Limit 500 1,500 15,000 P50 through P56 No Limit 1,000 1,000 15,000 P60 through P66 No Limit 1,500 1,500 25,000 P70 through P76 No Limit $2,500 $2,500 $50,000 Replace- Funer- Survivor's ment al Loss Services Expen- Loss Per ses Day For Coverage 1 Year Symbol P40 through P46 25 1,500 5,000 P50 through P56 25 1,500 5,000 P60 through P66 35 1,500 10,000 P70 through P76 $50 $1,500 15,000

19821221

© 1992-2004 VersusLaw Inc.



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