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MARY PISTORIUS v. TRAVELERS INSURANCE COMPANY V. RAYMOND K. CRAWFORD (12/20/85)

filed: December 20, 1985.

MARY PISTORIUS, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF JOHN J. PISTORIUS, DECEASED, APPELLANT,
v.
THE TRAVELERS INSURANCE COMPANY V. RAYMOND K. CRAWFORD



Appeal from Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Armstrong County, No. 1982-1495-Civil.

COUNSEL

B. Albert Bertocchi, Kittanning, for appellant.

Philip A. Faix, Jr., Pittsburgh, for Travelers, appellee.

Spaeth, President Judge, and Wickersham, Brosky, Rowley, Wieand, Cirillo, Olszewski, Beck and Tamilia, JJ. Spaeth, President Judge, joins this opinion and also the concurring opinion by Brosky, J. Brosky, J., files a concurring opinion in which Spaeth, President Judge, joins. Cirillo, J., files a dissenting opinion in which Olszewski and Tamilia, JJ., join.

Author: Wieand

[ 348 Pa. Super. Page 529]

The issue in this appeal is whether a "dirt bike", which cannot be licensed under the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code,*fn1 is a motorcycle for purposes of applying the provision of the Pennsylvania No-fault Motor Vehicle Insurance Act*fn2 which disallows recovery of no-fault benefits by operators of motorcycles. The trial court held that a dirt bike was a motorcycle and that, although the bike operator had been killed in a collision with a licensed motor vehicle, the administratrix of the deceased operator's estate was ineligible to recover survivor's benefits under the No-fault law. We conclude that the dirt bike was not a motorcycle and reverse.

On August 18, 1981, John J. Pistorius, a thirteen year old youth, was operating a Yamaha MX100 dirt bike along a township road in Sugarcreek Township, Armstrong County, when he came into collision with a truck being driven by Raymond Crawford. Pistorius died as a result of injuries sustained in the collision. Neither the dirt bike nor the truck was covered by insurance. Mary Pistorius, the deceased boy's mother and administratrix of his estate, made a claim for basic loss benefits under the Assigned Claims Plan of the Pennsylvania No-fault Motor Vehicle Insurance Act. The claim was assigned to The Travelers Insurance Company (Travelers). Travelers denied liability. It contended that the decedent had been operating a motorcycle and that, therefore, his administratrix could not recover no-fault benefits under the Act. A civil action followed.

[ 348 Pa. Super. Page 530]

When the trial court entered summary judgment in favor of Travelers, an appeal was filed in this Court.

"Basic loss benefits," as defined by the No-fault Act, are payable to persons who incur loss due to injuries arising out of an accident involving the "maintenance or use of a motor vehicle." No-fault Act, supra, § 103, 40 P.S. § 1009.103. However, the Act specifically excludes recovery by victims whose loss has been sustained while operating or riding on a motorcycle. With respect to operators of motorcycles, the Act retains a system of tort liability for injuries which have been sustained. No-fault Act, supra, § 301(a)(6), 40 P.S. § 1009.301(a)(6). The Act does not define the term motorcycle. Our task, therefore, is to ascertain whether the legislature intended to bar drivers of dirt bikes from recovering no-fault benefits when it denied benefits to operators of motorcycles.

A statute must be read to effect its general purpose. Busy Beaver Building Centers, Inc. v. Tueche, 295 Pa. Super. 504, 512, 442 A.2d 252, 256 (1981). Words and phrases used by the legislature are to be construed according to their common meaning and accepted usage, with technical words being given their technical meaning. Fireman's Fund Insurance Co. v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., 317 Pa. Super. 497, 502, 464 A.2d 431, 434 (1983). However, individual provisions in a comprehensive legislative scheme should not be read abstractly, but rather with a view to their place in the entire structure. Commonwealth v. Davis, 330 Pa. Super. 551, 558, 479 A.2d 1041, 1045 (1984), allocatur granted (February 7, 1985); Anatanovich v. Allstate Insurance Co., 320 Pa. Super. 322, 338, 467 A.2d 345, 353 (1983), aff'd, 507 Pa. 68, 488 A.2d 571 (1985).

The Supreme Court, in Singer v. Sheppard, 464 Pa. 387, 346 A.2d 897 (1975), upheld the validity of the legislature's decision to treat motorcycles differently than other motor vehicles for purposes of providing basic loss benefits to accident victims. The Court did not then define a "motorcycle" for purposes of excluding coverage but did observe that "[m]otorcycles are 'motor vehicles' for the purpose of

[ 348 Pa. Super. Page 531]

    compulsory insurance although they are excluded under subsection 301(a)(6) of the Act. No-fault benefits are, therefore, available to third persons injured by a motorcycle." Id., 464 Pa. at 406 n. 29, 346 A.2d at 907 n. 29 (citations omitted).

Travelers argued in the trial court, as it does on appeal, that the Yamaha MX100 dirt bike is virtually identical to a motorcycle. Photographs produced during depositions suggest a similarity. However, the dirt bike has been designed for recreational use and not for use on public highways. It has no headlights, no taillight, no horn, no turn signals, no mirror, and no speedometer. Because it lacks these features, the dirt bike cannot be licensed under the Vehicle Code. ...


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