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PATRICIA MODESTA v. SOUTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY (12/21/83)

decided: December 21, 1983.

PATRICIA MODESTA, APPELLANT,
v.
SOUTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY, APPELLEE



No. 49 E.D. App. Dkt. 1982, Appeal from the Judgment of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, at No. 274, Philadelphia, 1981, dated May 21, 1982, Roberts, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, Hutchinson and Zappala, JJ. Nix and McDermott, JJ., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case. Hutchinson, J., concurred in the result.

Author: Larsen

[ 503 Pa. Page 439]

OPINION

On March 2, 1978, appellant Patricia Modesta was injured when the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) bus in which she was a passenger was struck from behind by an uninsured motorist. On December 17, 1979, appellant demanded arbitration of her uninsured motorist claim with SEPTA. When SEPTA refused to arbitrate, appellant commenced a suit in equity demanding arbitration, uninsured motorist coverage, and judgment in the amount of $50,000.*fn1 The court of common pleas granted SEPTA's preliminary objection and dismissed appellant's complaint. On appeal, the Superior Court affirmed. Modesta v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, 300 Pa. Super. 6, 445 A.2d 1271 (1982). We granted appellant's petition for allowance of appeal and we now reverse.

[ 503 Pa. Page 440]

In the trial court, SEPTA's sole preliminary objection was that appellant had failed to state a cause of action because SEPTA, as a self-insurer, was not required to provide uninsured motorist coverage. The trial court sustained the objection based upon this Court's 4-3 decision in Johnson v. Yellow Cab Company, 456 Pa. 256, 317 A.2d 245 (1974). Appellant first argues that the holding of Johnson v. Yellow Cab is "unduly narrow and technical" and that Johnson v. Yellow Cab should now be overruled. We agree.

The Uninsured Motorist Act, Act of August 14, 1963, P.L. 909, § 1, as amended, 40 P.S. § 2000, provides that

(a) No motor vehicle liability policy of insurance insuring against loss resulting from liability imposed by law for bodily injury or death suffered by any person arising out of the ownership, maintenance or use of a motor vehicle shall be delivered or issued for delivery in this State with respect to any motor vehicle registered or principally garaged in this State, unless coverage is provided therein or supplemental thereto . . . for the protection of persons insured thereunder who are legally entitled to recover damages from owners or operators of uninsured motor vehicles because of bodily injury, sickness or disease . . . .

In Johnson v. Yellow Cab, this Court held that the Uninsured Motorist Act does not require self-insurers to provide uninsured motorist coverage because the statute applies only to "liability policies of insurance," and self-insurers do not have or purchase "liability policies of insurance." Id., 456 Pa. at 259, 317 A.2d at 247.

The purpose of the Uninsured Motorist Act is to

"afford financial recompense to persons who receive injuries . . . solely through the negligence of motorists, who, because they are uninsured and not financially responsible, cannot be made to satisfy a judgment." . . . [O]ur determination here is in harmony with the view that the "statute evolves from public policy considerations and must be broadly and liberally construed to accomplish this purpose . . . ."

[ 503 Pa. Page 441]

    claims of those individuals for whose protection the insurance laws have been enacted.

Accordingly, we hold that SEPTA is required to maintain uninsured motorist coverage under the Uninsured Motorist Act even though it is self-insured, and we overrule this Court's ...


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