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GROVE v. AETNA CAS. & SUR. CO.

February 2, 1993

MALCOLM W. GROVE, Plaintiff,
v.
AETNA CASUALTY & SURETY COMPANY, DEFENDANT.


Smith


The opinion of the court was delivered by: BY THE COURT; D. BROOKS SMITH

SMITH, District J.

 I. BACKGROUND

 Plaintiff Malcolm W. Grove ("Grove") filed this action in the Court of Common Pleas of Blair County, Pennsylvania on August 7, 1991. Defendant Aetna Casualty & Surety Company ("Aetna") removed the action to this Court on September 6, 1991. The facts are as stated in my April 2, 1992 Memorandum Order. This matter is currently before the Court on defendant's Motion For Partial Summary Judgment, and Motion To Compel Signed Authorization Pertaining to Malcolm Grove Disability Claim File. Jurisdiction is based upon diversity of citizenship. *fn1"

 II. DISCUSSION

 A. Defendant's Motion For Partial Summary Judgment

 Count II of plaintiff's Complaint seeks punitive damages, plus interest, attorney's fees and all court costs from defendant pursuant to 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 8371 for allegedly refusing to pay overdue medical bills. Enacted as part of the Act of February 7, 1990, P.L. 11, No. 1190-6, 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 8371 provides, in relevant part:

 
Section 8371. Actions on insurance policies
 
In an action arising under an insurance policy, if the court finds that the insurer has acted in bad faith toward the insured, the court may take all of the following actions:
 
(1) Award interest on the amount of the claim from the date the claim was made by the insured in an amount equal to the prime rate of interest plus 3%.
 
(2) Award punitive damages against the insurer.
 
(3) Assess court costs and attorney fees against the insurer.

 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 8371.

 Defendant argues that plaintiff is not entitled to recover punitive damages because section 8371 does not apply to a dispute over the non-payment of first-party medical benefits under an auto insurance policy. Specifically, defendant contends that the provisions of section 8371 are inconsistent with, and pre-empted by, those of the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law, 75 Pa.C.S.A. ...


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