Appeal from Order and Judgment of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Dauphin County, No. 1141 S 1984. Appeal from Order and Judgment of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Dauphin County, No. 995 S 1984.
Richard C. Angino, Harrisburg, for appellants.
Jeffrey B. Rettig, Harrisburg, for appellee (at 174).
Carl A. Solano, Philadelphia, for appellee (at 175).
Wieand, Olszewski and Watkins, JJ.
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This is a consolidated appeal from orders of the trial court which revoked class certifications previously entered in Brunda v. Home Insurance Co., No. 1141-S-1984 (Dauphin Cty.) and Cunningham v. Insurance Company of North America, No. 995-S-1984 (Dauphin Cty.). These actions had sought recovery of post-mortem work loss benefits under Pennsylvania's No-fault Motor Vehicle Insurance Act.*fn1 The representative plaintiffs in both cases also appealed from judgments dismissing their individual claims on grounds that they were barred by the applicable statute of limitations.
Francis J. Brunda died in an automobile accident on August 15, 1976. At the time of the accident, he was insured by a policy of no-fault insurance which had been written by Home Insurance Company (Home). Home denied the demand by Brunda's wife for work loss benefits. Consequently, on April 13, 1984, Eleanor Brunda commenced a class action against Home to recover work loss benefits on behalf of her deceased husband's estate and also on behalf of the estates of all insureds of Home who had died in auto accidents following enactment of the Nofault Act.
Kathleen Cunningham was the daughter of Blair and Julia Cunningham, who are the appellants at No. 175 Harrisburg, 1985. She died as a result of a motor vehicle accident on January 26, 1979,*fn2 when the car she had been
[ 353 Pa. Super. Page 150]
operating collided with another vehicle. The decedent was covered by a policy of motor vehicle insurance which had been issued by Insurance Company of North America (INA). After INA had refused to pay work loss benefits to the decedent's estate, the Cunninghams filed a class action complaint against INA on March 29, 1984. In it, they sought recovery of work loss benefits on behalf of their daughter's estate and the estates of all other INA insureds who had sustained fatal injuries in auto accidents after 1975 when the No-fault Act went into effect.
In both actions, the insurance companies filed answers to the complaints which alleged, inter alia, that the claims of the representative plaintiffs were barred by the four year statute of limitations contained in the No-fault Act. Later, they moved for summary judgment on this ground. In the meantime, the two estates had filed motions for class certification and also for partial summary judgment on their individual claims. After hearing, the trial court denied appellants' motions for partial summary judgment, but conditionally granted class certification. Although the court determined that the individual claims of appellants were barred by the statute of limitations, it gave appellants' counsel twenty days in which to intervene new class representatives. Failure to substitute new plaintiffs within twenty days, the court warned, would result in decertification of the two classes. Unable to locate an adequate class representative for either action, appellants' counsel served interrogatories on the insurance companies and requests for the production of documents to disclose the identity of each insured who had been killed in an automobile accident. Pending responses to these discovery requests, appellants' counsel petitioned the court for more time in which to intervene proper ...