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QUACIARI v. ALLSTATE INS. CO.

March 24, 1998

CASILDA L. QUACIARI
v.
ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BRODY

103*578MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

 Anita B. Brody, J.

 March 24, 1998

 Plaintiff Casilda Quaciari ("plaintiff") brought this action against Allstate Insurance Company ("Allstate") under Pennsylvania's insurance bad faith statute, 42 Pa.C.S.A § 8371, based on Allstate's handling of her underinsured motorist ("UIM") claim after a December 1992 automobile accident. The heart of plaintiff's bad faith claim is that Allstate took conflicting positions regarding plaintiff's role in causing the accident: when Allstate sought subrogation for the property damage claim submitted by plaintiff's father (the owner of the car and the policyholder), Allstate asserted that the other driver was solely responsible for the accident; when plaintiff submitted a UIM claim, Allstate took the position that plaintiff was responsible for the accident. At the close of discovery, defendant moved for summary judgment, asserting that, as a matter of law, Allstate's reversal of position could not be evidence of bad faith, and that plaintiff had otherwise failed to present clear and convincing evidence of bad faith in the handling of her claim. Plaintiff argued in response that Allstate's contradictory positions regarding plaintiff's responsibility for the accident, along with other actions taken by Allstate before the claim was eventually resolved, create genuine issues of material fact regarding the reasonableness of Allstate's conduct, sufficient to preclude summary judgment. On January 27, 1998, I heard oral argument on Allstate's motion. *fn1" After reviewing the record in this case, the arguments of the parties and the relevant case law, I conclude, for the reasons explained below, that plaintiff has failed to produce clear and convincing evidence from which a jury could reasonably conclude that Allstate lacked a reasonable basis for its actions in handling her UIM claim. I will therefore grant Allstate's motion for summary judgment.

 I. Background

 The following facts are either not in dispute or are presented in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the non-moving party. *fn2" On December 8, 1992, plaintiff Casilda Quaciari was driving a car owned by her father, Domenico Quaciari, when she was involved in an automobile accident with another car driven by Robert Wrease. Mr. Quaciari was insured by defendant Allstate, and Wrease was insured by Nationwide Insurance Company ("Nationwide"). Plaintiff was a named insured on her father's policy.

 After the accident, Mr. Quaciari submitted a property damages claim to Allstate. On January 27, 1993, Allstate sent Mr. Quaciari a check for $ 3771.00, representing the value of Mr. Quaciari's claim less his $ 500 deductible. Allstate then pursued its subrogation rights against Nationwide, and the claim was submitted to arbitration. In contention papers filed as part of its subrogation claim, Allstate took the position that Nationwide's insured was solely responsible for the accident. (Pl.Ex.3-5) The arbitration panel awarded $ 2974.40 to Allstate, representing 80 per cent of the claim. (Pl.Ex.3-8) Allstate then reimbursed Mr. Quaciari $ 400, representing 80 per cent of his $ 500 deductible. (Pl.Ex.3-9)

 On September 26, 1994, plaintiff's counsel notified Allstate that he had received a verbal tender from Nationwide of Wrease's policy limits for personal injury claims ($ 15,000), and that plaintiff would be asserting an underinsured motorist ("UIM") claim against Allstate for personal injuries arising out of the accident. (Pl.Ex. 3-10) In a letter dated November 28, 1994, Allstate authorized plaintiff to settle with Nationwide for the policy limits and stated that it would arrange an independent medical examination of plaintiff after it received all outstanding medical documentation. (Pl.Ex. 3-14) Plaintiff's counsel forwarded medical records to Allstate on October 19, 1994, January 4, 1995 and March 21, 1995. (Pl.Ex.3-12,16,19) On January 17, 1995, plaintiff demanded that the UIM claim be submitted to arbitration. (Pl.Ex.3-17) On March 22, 1995, Allstate requested plaintiff's authorization to release "all records in this matter", including Nationwide's third party claim file. (Pl.Ex.3-20) By letter dated May 1, 1995, plaintiff's counsel notified Allstate that plaintiff would provide any records requested, but that plaintiff was not required to sign a blanket authorization for medical records.(Pl.Ex.3-22)

 
She entered the intersection on a yellow without looking either to the right or to the left. And that is negligent.
 
And that is the cause, I suggest to the panel, of this accident. She had a duty, at least on a yellow light, to look both ways and to assure that the intersection was clear.
 
She failed to look either way and as a result thereof this accident occurred.

 Pl.Ex.11.

 The panel awarded plaintiff $ 55,000.00 on her UIM claim. On December 6, 1995, Allstate mailed a check in the amount of $ 55,000.00, along with a Receipt, Release and Trust Agreement, to plaintiff's counsel. (Pl.Ex.3-33,34) Plaintiff deposited the check and returned an ...


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