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JOHN OMODIO v. AETNA LIFE AND CASUALTY (05/25/89)

filed: May 25, 1989.

JOHN OMODIO
v.
AETNA LIFE AND CASUALTY, APPELLANT



Appeal from the Judgment Entered February 18, 1988, in the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Allegheny County, No. 6433 of 1986.

COUNSEL

Robert C. Little, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Edward H. Walter, Pittsburgh, for appellee.

Rowley, Del Sole and Montgomery, JJ.

Author: Rowley

[ 384 Pa. Super. Page 545]

The sole issue presented in this appeal by Aetna Life and Casualty ("Aetna") is whether a provision in an automobile liability insurance policy issued by Aetna to appellee John Omodio which excludes from first party benefits coverage any bodily injury sustained by "any person . . . as a direct result of loading or unloading any motor vehicle" is valid under the terms of sections 1711 and 1712 of the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law ("the Financial Responsibility Law"), 75 Pa.C.S. §§ 1711, 1712, which direct insurers to make available for purchase first party benefits "with respect to injury arising out of the maintenance or use of a motor vehicle . . . ." The trial court, concluding that coverage of persons in Omodio's situation was required by the Financial Responsibility Law, rendered

[ 384 Pa. Super. Page 546]

    judgment in favor of Omodio and against Aetna in Omodio's action to recover excess wage loss benefits under the policy. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the judgment entered by the trial court.

The facts of the case are as follows: On October 8, 1985, plaintiff/appellee Omodio, acting within the scope of his employment as a truck driver for McKesson Drug Company, sustained an injury to his lower back while standing inside and loading his truck. Omodio submitted a claim for excess wage loss benefits to Aetna. Aetna denied the claim, explaining in a letter to Omodio that it did so in reliance upon the policy's exclusion from coverage of anyone "sustaining injury as a direct result of loading or unloading any motor vehicle."

On July 7, 1986, Omodio filed the present action against Aetna to recover excess wage loss benefits. The case was initially heard by a panel of arbitrators, who awarded damages for Omodio and against Aetna in the amount of $15,000, the maximum amount recoverable as excess wage loss benefits under Omodio's policy. Aetna appealed the arbitrators' award to the Court of Common Pleas, and the case was submitted to the trial court as a case stated, with the parties reserving the right to appeal. The trial court rendered judgment in favor of Omodio, and this timely appeal followed.

In an opinion dated July 14, 1988, the trial court set forth the reasons for its decision. First, section 1921(c)(5) of the Statutory Construction Act of 1972, 1 Pa.C.S. § 1921(c)(5), provides that when the words of a statute are not explicit, the former law on the subject is one of the matters that may be considered in order to ascertain the intent of the legislature. The Financial Responsibility Law does not define "maintenance or use of a motor vehicle,"*fn1 and therefore, the trial court explained, the courts may look to the definition of the phrase that is contained in the prior statute, the Pennsylvania No-fault Motor Vehicle Insurance Act

[ 384 Pa. Super. Page 547]

("the No-fault Act"), 40 P.S. §§ 1009.101 et seq. That ...


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