filed: July 29, 1983.
ROYAL GLOBE INSURANCE COMPANIES AND GENERAL ACCIDENT GROUP. APPEAL OF ROYAL GLOBE INSURANCE COMPANIES
No. 3190 Philadelphia 1981, Appeal from the Judgment of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Civil Division, at No. 1356 April Term, 1979.
George D. Sheehan, Philadelphia, for appellant.
Benjamin Pomerantz, Philadelphia, for Novoseller, appellee.
Charles W. Craven, Philadelphia, for General Acc., appellee.
Cavanaugh, Rowley and Hoffman, JJ. Cavanaugh and Rowley, JJ., concur in the result.
[ 317 Pa. Super. Page 219]
Appellant challenges the stacking or cumulation of insurance policy coverages assessed against it by an arbitration panel. We find that the lower court correctly upheld the panel's determination and, accordingly, affirm.
On November 1, 1967, Harold Novoseller,*fn1 while operating one of his employer's nine taxi cabs, collided with an uninsured vehicle. Both Novoseller's employer's insurance policy with Royal Globe Insurance Co., appellant, and Novoseller's own policy with General Accident Group, appellee, provided the statutorily required $15,000 minimum
[ 317 Pa. Super. Page 220]
uninsured motorist coverage. After appellant paid Worker's Compensation benefits, a panel of arbitrators awarded Novoseller $32,500 in damages, and assessed the full amount of the award against appellant by stacking the coverage of the other cabs.*fn2 The lower court affirmed the arbitrator's determination and subsequently denied a motion for reconsideration. The original appeal taken to this court was quashed on November 30, 1981, for failure to enter judgment. Novoseller v. Royal Globe Insurance Co., 293 Pa. Superior Ct. 93, 437 A.2d 1007 (1981). Judgment was entered on December 2, 1981, and this appeal followed.
In a proceeding governed by statutory arbitration, a reviewing court may modify or correct an award, inter alia
where the award is against the law, and is such that had it been a verdict of the jury the court would have entered different or other judgment notwithstanding the verdict.
Arbitration Act of 1927, P.L. 381, No. 248 § 11, 5 P.S. § 171(d). This limitation has been construed so that only mistakes of law may be corrected after arbitration. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Williams, 481 Pa. 130, 392 A.2d 281 (1978); McDevitt v. McDevitt, 365 Pa. 18, 73 A.2d 394 (1950).
Appellant contends that the arbitration panel, in stacking its coverage of a fleet of cars owned by one insured, made a mistake of law, and requests that the damages be equally apportioned between the two insurance companies.*fn3 We agree with the lower court that stacking is permissible in Pennsylvania and absent that alleged mistake of law, find no reason to correct or modify the arbitrators' award.
[ 317 Pa. Super. Page 221]
The uninsured motorist provisions, 40 P.S. § 2000, were designed to protect innocent victims suffering grave injuries because of others' negligent use of the highways, Harleysville Mutual Casualty Co. v. Blumbling, 429 Pa. 389, 241 A.2d 112 (1968), and are to be liberally construed. Blocker v. Aetna Casualty and Surety Co., 232 Pa. Superior Ct. 111, 332 A.2d 476 (1975). Consequently, insurance companies are required to afford a minimum protection to the owner/operator of a motor vehicle involved in an accident with an uninsured motorist. The Pennsylvania courts have frequently noted that "[t]he legislature has permitted enhancement of that minimum protection, but we believe the statute does not permit a diminution of that protection below the statutory limits." State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Williams, supra 481 Pa. at 139-40, 392 A.2d at 285. In light of the required liberal construction and the legislature's intent, court decisions in this area have evolved to hold that
where a loss exceeds the limits of one policy, the insured may proceed under other available policies up to their individual limits or the amount of the actual loss and that provisions . . . limiting that liability, are in derogation of and repugnant to the Uninsured Motorist Act.
[ 317 Pa. Super. Page 222]
Marchese v. Aetna Casualty and Surety Co., 284 Pa. Superior Ct. 579, 582, 426 A.2d 646, 647 (1981).*fn4 See Sones v. Page 222} Aetna Casualty and Surety Co., 270 Pa. Superior Ct. 330, 411 A.2d 552 (1979). In Marchese, supra, the court permitted stacking of a "garage policy" covering twenty cars owned by the insured (plaintiff's employer) that were specified as having dealer plates. The plaintiff was awarded $250,000 by an arbitration panel, well within the maximum $300,000 coverage for the fleet of twenty cars. After emphasizing the affront to the uninsured motorist provision of any limitation on liability, the court concluded that "whether the coverage is in several policies or multiple coverage in one does not seem important in light of the principles relating to limitation provisions which we have referred to." Marchese v. Aetna Casualty and Surety Co., supra 284 Pa. Super. at 585, 426 A.2d at 649. Similarly in Sones v. Aetna Casualty and Surety Co., supra, this Court maintained that in light of State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Williams, supra, stacking was permissible because limitations prohibiting the pyramiding of coverage were repugnant to the uninsured motorist provisions. See Harleysville Mutual Casualty Co. v. Blumbling, supra.
Because stacking of uninsured motorist policies is permitted in Pennsylvania, where any exclusion to the contrary would contradict the legislature's intent, we must affirm the award. Although both insurance companies were available to cover Novoseller's damages, we cannot say that the arbitrators mistook the law in holding appellant liable for the entire amount.*fn5
[ 317 Pa. Super. Page 223]
Accordingly, we affirm the order of the lower court upholding the arbitrators' award.