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AMY LYNN PATTERSON v. NATIONWIDE MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY (10/24/86)

filed: October 24, 1986.

AMY LYNN PATTERSON, A MINOR BY HER NEXT FRIEND AND GUARDIAN AD LITEM, ERNESTINE PATTERSON
v.
NATIONWIDE MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, APPELLANT



Appeal from the Judgment of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Lawrence County at No. 898 of 1983 C.A.

COUNSEL

James F. Andrews, Jr., Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Alfred V. Papa, Allen L. Palmer, New Castle, for appellee.

Brosky, Rowley and Popovich, JJ.

Author: Popovich

[ 358 Pa. Super. Page 168]

This is an appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lawrence County entering judgment in favor of the plaintiff (Amy Lynn Patterson, a minor) and against the defendant (Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co.). We affirm.

The case consists of the following undisputed facts: On October 22, 1977, Arthur Patterson was killed while driving a vehicle owned by his brother. Mr. Patterson was survived by a minor-daughter (the plaintiff) who was in the

[ 358 Pa. Super. Page 169]

    custody of his former wife. The minor-daughter was three years old at the time of the accident. As for insurance coverage, Mr. Patterson had been issued a policy by Nationwide, which policy provided him with basic personal injury protection.

No one argues that the statute of limitations for bringing suit expired four years after the accident or October 22, 1981. Nonetheless, suit was not commenced until December 9, 1983. Within one week prior to suit, however, Nationwide paid five thousand ($5,000) dollars in survivor's loss benefits to the minor-child. Following Nationwide's denial of the plaintiff's claim for work loss benefits under the now repealed No-Fault Act,*fn1 the plaintiff commenced the present action by filing a complaint in assumpsit to recover these benefits.

After limited discovery, the case was submitted to the lower court on briefs. On January 22, 1986, the lower court found in favor of the plaintiff in the sum of fifteen thousand ($15,000) dollars, with interest accruable at eighteen (18) percent added thereto, retroactive to December 9, 1984. Attorney's fees were also awarded to the plaintiff's counsel upon submission of a fee schedule to the defendant. On February 7, 1986, the appealed from order and judgment was entered. The present appeal was filed thereafter.*fn2

The first issue we shall address, which prior hereto has received limited consideration in this Commonwealth, is two-fold in that it relates to whether (a) the applicable

[ 358 Pa. Super. Page 170]

    statute of limitations was tolled, because of the plaintiff's minority, and (b) whether she can, as a result thereof, determine her entitlement to work loss benefits in her capacity as the decedent's survivor.

As in the past, our polestar for construing the No-Fault Act has been singular in nature, i.e., to ascertain and effectuate the intention of the General Assembly. See 1 Pa.C.S. § 1921. In doing so, we have turned consistently to the provisions of the No-Fault Act itself. For example, the stated purpose for promulgating the No-Fault Act appears in 40 P.S. § 1009.102 (repealed), where it is written:

(b) Purposes. -- Therefore, it is hereby declared to be the policy of the General Assembly to establish at reasonable cost to the purchaser of insurance, a Statewide system of prompt and adequate basic loss benefits for motor vehicle accident victims and the survivors of deceased victims.

Further, the same section of the No-Fault Act, under the heading of "Findings", refers to the General Assembly's declaration that:

(3) the maximum feasible restoration of all individuals injured and compensation of the economic losses of the survivors of all individuals killed in motor vehicle accidents on Commonwealth highways, in intrastate commerce, and in activity affecting intrastate commerce is essential to the humane and purposeful functioning of commerce.

40 P.S. § 1009.102(a)(3) (repealed). Additionally, Section 201, in pertinent part, confers the right to receive basic loss benefits to "any victim or any survivor of a deceased victim" injured in the Commonwealth. 40 P.S. § 1009.201(a) (repealed). Therefore, it is self-evident that the No-Fault Act was ...


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