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JERRY LEWIS v. SCHOOL DISTRICT PHILADELPHIA (03/01/88)

decided: March 1, 1988.

JERRY LEWIS, APPELLANT,
v.
SCHOOL DISTRICT OF PHILADELPHIA, APPELLEE. THOMAS HOLTON, APPELLANT, V. CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, APPELLEE. THOMAS COLLINS, APPELLANT, V. CITY OF PHILADELPHIA AND GENERAL ACCIDENT INSURANCE COMPANY. APPEAL OF GENERAL ACCIDENT INSURANCE COMPANY



Appeal from the Judgment of the Superior Court entered October 25, 1985, at No. 1271 Philadelphia 1984, affirming the order of Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County entered April 26, 1984 at No. 3597 of March Term 1984. Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Zappala and Papadakos, JJ. Larsen, J., files a dissenting opinion.

Author: Nix

[ 517 Pa. Page 463]

OPINION

These appeals call upon us to decide which of two statutes,

[ 517 Pa. Page 464]

    the "Uninsured Motorist Act"*fn1 or The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act,*fn2 controls whether an employee may recover uninsured motorist benefits from his employer for a work-related automobile accident. The "Uninsured Motorist Act" requires, subject to limitations not here pertinent, that automobile insurance policies covering personal-injury liability also provide protection against uninsured motorists. However, the availability of this protection to employees of the owner of the insured vehicle implicates section 303(a) of the Workmen's Compensation Act, 77 P.S. ยง 481(a), which states that the latter statute is the exclusive source of an employer's liability to an employee for work-related injury.

The instant appeals, which we consolidated for argument and decision, arose from three separate actions for damages based on the "Uninsured Motorist Act." In two of the actions, an employee sought to recover damages from his employer for pain and suffering resulting from personal injuries sustained in a work-related automobile accident with an uninsured driver. The third action was of the same nature, but included the injured employee's own insurance carrier as a co-defendant. In all three cases the courts below concluded that section 303(a) of the Workmen's Compensation Act immunized the employer from the employee's claim for uninsured motorist benefits. We granted review to consider the correctness of that conclusion.

JERRY LEWIS

Appellant Jerry Lewis was employed by the School District of Philadelphia ("School District") as a bus driver. The School District was self-insured as to motor vehicle liability and as to workmen's compensation claims. On May 26, 1982, Lewis, while driving a school bus in the course of his employment, was involved in an accident with another vehicle, owned and operated by an uninsured motorist.

[ 517 Pa. Page 465]

Because of injuries sustained by Lewis in the accident he received workmen's compensation benefits from his employer. Subsequently, Mr. Lewis demanded of the School District that it pay him additional moneys, pursuant to the "Uninsured Motorist Act," to compensate him for the non-economic detriment he suffered as a result of the 1982 accident. That claim was based on our decision in Modesta v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, 503 Pa. 437, 469 A.2d 1019 (1983), in which we held that self-insureds have a legal duty to provide the coverage mandated by the "Uninsured Motorist Act."

In March of 1984, upon the School District's rejection of his uninsured motorist claim, Jerry Lewis petitioned the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County for an order to compel his employer to arbitrate the matter.*fn3 The petition was denied by the trial court, on the ground that, as against an employer, benefits under the Workmen's Compensation Act are an employee's exclusive monetary remedy for injury suffered by him in the course of employment. That decision was affirmed by the Superior Court. Lewis v. School District of Philadelphia, 347 Pa. Super. 32, 500 A.2d 141 (1985). Mr. Lewis followed with a petition to this Court for an allowance of appeal, which we granted for the purpose of considering the issue set forth above.

THOMAS HOLTON

Appellant Thomas Holton was employed by the City of Philadelphia ("City") as a policeman. On October 15, 1981, Officer Holton was injured in the course of his employment, as a result of an automobile accident involving a City-owned police vehicle he was driving and another vehicle, owned and operated by a civilian motorist with no insurance. Holton's employer, the City, was self-insured as to automobile

[ 517 Pa. Page 466]

    liability and workmen's compensation. Because Officer Holton's injuries were work-related, the City paid him workmen's compensation benefits.

Holton had automobile liability insurance of his own. Based on the uninsured motorist provision in his policy, he claimed against his own insurance carrier for the non-economic detriment he suffered as a result of the accident. When that claim proceeded to arbitration the arbitrators determined that, because of our decision in Modesta, supra, the City had the primary responsibility of providing uninsured motorist coverage for Holton. According to the arbitrators, the obligation of Holton's own insurance carrier was only secondary. When Holton demanded of the City that it provide him with uninsured motorist benefits, the claim was denied.

On October 19, 1984, Thomas Holton filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County an action for a declaratory judgment, seeking a judicial determination that the City was liable to him for uninsured motorist benefits. The City responded to the action with preliminary objections, asserting that the Workmen's Compensation Act immunized it from the claim in question. The trial court sustained the City's defense and dismissed Holton's suit. That decision was affirmed by the Superior Court in a memorandum opinion. Holton v. City of Philadelphia, 352 Pa. Super. 622, 505 A.2d 1038 (1985). Holton's petition to this Court for an allowance of appeal was granted.

GENERAL ACCIDENT INSURANCE COMPANY

The third appeal, though presenting the same issue as the other two, is by an appellant whose interest is in a different posture. The instant appellant, General Accident Insurance Company ("General"), was the liability insurer for the private automobile of a municipal employee who was injured in a work-related vehicle accident caused by an uninsured motorist. General seeks to reverse a trial-court decision which held ...


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