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ROSE RAGO v. STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY (07/23/86)

filed: July 23, 1986.

ROSE RAGO, ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF CHRISTINE ANNE SCIAMBRA A/K/A ANNE CHRISTINE SCIAMBRA, DECEASED AND ANNE C. SCIAMBRA, PARENT IN HER OWN RIGHT, APPELLANT
v.
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY



APPEAL FROM THE ORDER ENTERED APRIL 7, 1985, IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF BUCKS COUNTY, CIVIL DIVISION, AT NO. 83-4992-15-1.

COUNSEL

John W. Craynock, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Fredric D. Rubin, Morrisville, for appellee.

Wickersham, Beck and Hoffman, JJ.

Author: Beck

[ 355 Pa. Super. Page 209]

We are today presented with an issue of first impression: to what extent must a parent rely on the financial support and uncompensated services provided by a child in order to be a "dependent" for purposes of receiving survivor's benefits under the Pennsylvania No-fault Motor Vehicle Insurance Act (No-fault Act).*fn1

Consistent with the remedial nature of the No-fault Act, we hold that a claimant must demonstrate on the record an actual dependency but need not show such complete reliance that any finding of independence would negate the finding of dependency. The test is whether the child's earnings were needed to provide the parent with

[ 355 Pa. Super. Page 210]

    some of the ordinary necessities to maintain the parent in an established, reasonable standard of living for a person in the parent's socioeconomic position.

We therefore reverse the trial court's denial of survivor's benefits and remand for additional proceedings.

Christine Anne Sciambra was 20 years old at the time of her death. Prior to her death, Christine shared a modest two-bedroom apartment with her mother. Both women worked at Dali-fresh: Christine worked as a seasoner; her mother worked as a packer. Their net weekly incomes were $125 and $103, respectively. With the exception of approximately $20 per week that Christine kept for her own clothes, cosmetics, entertainment, etc., both mother and daughter contributed their entire paychecks to pay for household expenses. The total annual income which they jointly contributed to the household was $10,800. The estimated yearly expenses of the joint household were $11,020. Neither Christine nor her mother owned an automobile.

On November 25, 1981, Christine was killed in a collision involving a car in which she was a passenger. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (State Farm) was the automobile owner's insurer. Rose Rago (Christine's sister and estate administratrix) and Anne C. Sciambra (Christine's mother) sued State Farm for work loss and survivor's benefits, attorney's fees and interest pursuant to 40 P.S. §§ 1009.202(b), 1009.202(d), 1009.107(3) and 1009.106(a)(2), respectively.

State Farm made a lump sum payment of $15,000 in work loss benefits and also paid $4,000 in interest thereon due to its failure promptly to pay the work loss benefits. See 40 P.S. § 1009.106(a)(2). At trial on the remaining claims, the judge denied Ms. Sciambra's claim for survivor's benefits, awarded an additional $1,072.38 interest on the work loss claim and awarded $292.50 in attorney's fees on the work loss claim. Appellants appeal the denial of survivor's benefits and the allotted attorney's fees.

[ 355 Pa. Super. Page 211]

Survivor's benefits under the No-fault Act are limited to $5,000. 40 P.S. § 1009.202(d). Section 103 of the Act, 40 P.S. § 1009.103, defines the terms "survivor" and "survivor's loss" as follows:

"Survivor" ...


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