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METROPOLITAN PROPERTY & LIABILITY INSURANCE COMPANY v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (05/13/86)

decided: May 13, 1986.

METROPOLITAN PROPERTY & LIABILITY INSURANCE COMPANY, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, INSURANCE COMMISSIONER, AND BONNIE BECK, RESPONDENTS



Appeal from the Order of the Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner, in case of In re: Appeal of Metropolitan Property & Liability Ins. Co., File No. 83-2-51-08343; Insured: Bonnie Beck, Policy No. 167 52 2042, Docket No. P-84-5-2.

COUNSEL

Harvey Bartle, III, Dechert, Price & Rhoads, for petitioner.

Samuel R. Marshall, Assistant Counsel, with him, Hanna Leavitt, Chief of Litigation, and Paul Laskow, Chief Counsel, for respondent, Insurance Commissioner.

Beth Sheligo, with her, Heidi B. Hamman, for respondent, Bonnie Beck.

President Judge Crumlish, Jr., Judges Rogers, Craig, Doyle, Barry, Colins and Palladino. Opinion by Judge Colins. Dissenting Opinion by President Judge Crumlish, Jr. Judge Doyle joins in this dissent.

Author: Colins

[ 97 Pa. Commw. Page 221]

Metropolitan Property & Liability Insurance Company (petitioner) has petitioned this Court for review of an order and adjudication of the Insurance Commissioner of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Commissioner), which directed that the petitioner reinstate an automobile insurance policy of one Bonnie Beck (Beck) until such time as the policy is terminated in accordance with that Act commonly known as Act 78 (Act).*fn1

Beck applied to the petitioner for automobile insurance on August 1, 1983. There is no dispute that Beck fraudulently answered various questions on the application concerning her past driving record. While she asserted that her driving record was flawless, she had in fact committed several violations, including a speeding violation for which she was fined and her license suspended. This misrepresentation by Beck was undisputedly material to the risk, and she would not have been provided coverage had her record been known. Petitioner discovered Beck's misrepresentation after investigation of her first claim on August 7, 1983, for $878.00 of property damage caused by alleged vandalism. Petitioner refused to pay on the claim, and on September 16, 1983, informed Beck that it was rescinding her insurance contract due to her material misrepresentation, and returned her premium payment.

Beck filed a request for review with the Commissioner pursuant to Section 8 of the Act, 40 P.S. § 1008.8. The matter was reviewed by the Insurance Department, and on March 1, 1984, the Department issued a determination finding that petitioner had violated Sections 5, 6(3), and 8(b) of the Act, 40 P.S. §§ 1008.5,

[ 97 Pa. Commw. Page 2221008]

.6(3), and 1008.8(b). Petitioner then requested a formal administrative hearing as provided for by Section 9 of the Act, 40 P.S. § 1008.9. A hearing was held, and on May 23, 1985, the Commissioner upheld the Department's determination. This Petition for Review followed.

The decision of the Commissioner was based on his conclusion that the Act superseded all common law rights and methods of terminating insurance contracts, and that the only means by which an insurance contract could be terminated were contained in the provisions of the Act. Because the Act contains no provisions allowing for rescission of an insurance policy, the Commissioner concluded that the petitioner had violated the Act by improperly terminating Beck's insurance policy, and he therefore ordered reinstatement of the policy until such time as it was terminated in accordance with the Act. The sole issue before this Court is whether the Act superseded all methods of termination of automobile insurance not contained within the Act.

Initially, we must note that there is no language in the Act itself or any of its amendments which explicitly states that the Act was meant to supersede any common law or previous statutory methods of termination. When the words of a statute are not explicit, this Court must ascertain and effectuate the intention of the General Assembly. Higher Education Assistance Agency v. Abington Memorial Hospital, 478 Pa. 514, 387 A.2d 440 (1978); Section 1921(a) of the Statutory ...


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