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MARVIN NEEDLEMAN v. LIBERTY MUTUAL FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY (04/16/86)

filed: April 16, 1986.

MARVIN NEEDLEMAN, EYDIS A. NEEDLEMAN AND MELISSA NEEDLEMAN BY HER PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN, MARVIN NEEDLEMAN, APPELLANTS,
v.
LIBERTY MUTUAL FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Philadelphia County at No. 3873 May Term 1982.

COUNSEL

Lewis J. Gordon, Philadelphia, for appellants.

Stephen Yarnell, Pittsburgh, for appellee.

Wickersham, McEwen and Johnson, JJ.

Author: Wickersham

[ 352 Pa. Super. Page 289]

Marvin Needleman, his wife Eydis Needleman, and their daughter Melissa Needleman, appeal from the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County denying their exceptions to a prior order which denied them certain benefits under the Pennsylvania No-fault Motor Vehicle Insurance Act.*fn1

The majority of the facts were set forth by counsel in a stipulation in the court below. On September 8, 1980, Rachael Elyse Needleman, aged 4, was struck and killed by a passing motor vehicle while crossing the street in front of her home. Her sister Melissa, then aged 8 or 9, was standing in close proximity and witnessed the accident. Likewise, the girls' mother observed the accident from the front window of their home, and the girls' father, who was exiting from his car in the driveway of their home, also saw the accident. While all three appellants witnessed the accident, none were physically contacted by the motor vehicle which struck and killed Rachael.

Appellants had an automobile insurance policy with Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company, appellee herein. As a result of Rachael's death, appellee paid to appellants $23,625.00, which represented full survivor's loss benefits for funeral costs, wage loss, interest and attorney's fees. Appellee, however, refused to pay appellants' additional claims

[ 352 Pa. Super. Page 290]

    of $7260.25*fn2 for psychiatric and psychological care necessitated by the distress of witnessing Rachael's death, and $53,936.00 for the costs incurred as a result of their moving from their home adjacent to the accident scene to a new residence. The move was deemed necessary by appellants' treating psychologist as an element of their psychiatric care.

On May 19, 1982, appellants filed suit against appellee, seeking no-fault compensation for the above psychiatric and psychological care and costs. Appellee's refusal to pay was not based upon any question concerning the necessity of the psychiatric treatment, but rather it contended that appellants' claims were not compensable under the No-fault Act. The lower court agreed with appellee and on April 23, 1985, it entered a verdict in favor of appellee. Appellants filed exceptions to the verdict, which were denied on May 7, 1985. This appeal timely followed.

Appellants raise two issues for our consideration:

1. Are the costs of psychiatric and/or psychological care and treatment received by the parties witnessing the death of a family member compensable under their no-fault insurance policy issued under ...


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