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QUINNEY v. AMERICAN MODERN HOME INSURANCE CO.
May 4, 2001
WILLIAM A. QUINNEY, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
AMERICAN MODERN HOME INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: A. Richard Caputo, United States District Judge.
This matter is before me on the Plaintiffs' Motion to Dismiss
Defendant's Counterclaim (Doc. 5). It presents a question of the meaning
of language in the Underinsured Motorists Coverage portion of the
William A. Quinney purchased what is known as the Elite Collector
Policy from the Defendant. It was to cover Mr. Quinney's collector
cars, a 1978 Dodge Magnum and a 1966 Plymouth Barracuda. Mr. Quinney had
another vehicle, a 1993 Ford Escort, which he used regularly and which
was insured by a company other than the defendant. Mr. Quinney, as a
part of the policy with Defendants, agreed that the collector vehicles
would not be used regularly, but rather on a limited basis such as
exhibitions, club activities, parades, and occasional pleasure driving.
He further agreed the vehicles would be kept in a locked garage at
Tragically, Mr. Quinney's son, Matthew Allen Quinney, age 15, was
killed on May 2, 1999, while riding as a passenger in a car owned by
Sylvia Miller and driven by Michael Miller. The Millers are not related
to the Quinneys, and the car in which Matthew was riding was insured by
Ms. Miller with State Farm Insurance Company. Plaintiff recovered from
State Farm and from his carrier on his regular use vehicle, Erie
Insurance Group, under the underinsured motorist coverage provision.
Plaintiff seeks underinsured motorist reimbursement from Defendant, and
has filed a declaratory judgment action seeking a declaration of
coverage. The Defendant has filed an answer and counterclaim, the latter
of which seeks a declaration that the sought-after underinsured motorist
coverage is not available under the policy issued by the Defendant.
Defendant also argues, in the alternative, that the recovery from it is
limited to $133,000.
I hold that the policy by the Defendant does provide underinsured
motorist coverage in the full amount of $200,000 in the circumstances
here present, and therefore the motion will be granted.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) states that a motion to
dismiss may be granted for failure to state a claim upon which relief can
be granted. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). For the purposes of the motion to
dismiss, the court takes as true all well-pleaded allegations in
plaintiffs' complaint and construes all reasonable inferences in the
pleader's favor. Menkowitz v. Pottstown Mem'l Med. Ctr., 154 F.3d 113
(3rd Cir. 1998). The burden is on the moving party to prove that no
claim exists. See In re Corestates Trust Fee Litig., 837 F. Supp. 104
(E.D.Pa. 1993), aff'd, 39 F.3d 61 (3d Cir. 1994). A complaint should not
be dismissed merely because plaintiff's allegations do not support the
legal theory on which he intends to proceed. Bowers v. Hardwick,
478 U.S. 186, 202, 106 S.Ct. 2841, 2849, 92 L. Ed.2d 140 (1986). The
court has a duty to examine the complaint to determine if the allegations
provide for relief on any possible theory. Id. A complaint should only
be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it appears beyond doubt that
plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would
entitle him to relief. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45, 78 S.Ct. 99,
102, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957).
A. Count I of Counterclaim
This controversy centers around the language of the policy provisions
entitled "Underinsured Motorist Coverage Pennsylvania Non-Stacked." The
provision provides that Defendant "will pay compensatory damages which an
"insured" is legally entitled to recover from the owner or operator of an
"underinsured motor vehicle" because of bodily injury;
1. Sustained by an "insured"; and
2. Caused by an accident."
The provision defines an insured as follows:
"`Insured' as used in this endorsement means:
1. You or any "family member";
2. Any other person "occupying" "your covered auto".
3. Any person for damages that person is entitled
to recover because of "bodily injury" to which this
coverage applies sustained by a person described in
1. or 2. above."
The Defendant argues that this language must be read so as to require
that the insured is occupying the vehicle, a collector car, at the time
of the accident. The Defendant bolsters its argument by suggesting that
this interpretation is the obvious intent of the parties, both because of
the limitations on the use of the collector cars and the low premium
component ($6.00 for 2 collector cars versus $70.00 for one regular use
vehicle) for the underinsured motorist coverage. The defendant argues
that the latter factor supports the proposition that William Quinney
could not have had a reasonable expectation that underinsured motorist
coverage extended beyond an accident involving an insured occupying one
of the subject collector cars. See St. Paul Mercury Ins. Co. v. Corbett,
428 Pa. Super. 54, 630 A.2d 28 (1993).
The Defendant relies heavily on the Corbett case, and asserts its
governance in this case. In Corbett, Mr. Corbett was injured by a hit
and run driver while operating a vehicle owned by his employer. He
collected on the underinsured/uninsured coverage under his employer's
policy, his mother's policy (he resided with his mother), and a personal
policy issued to his wife who also resided in the household. Corbett also
had a special antique car policy with St. Paul which covered an antique
car and which provided $50,000.00 in underinsured/uninsured motorist
benefits. On the issue of coverage, a divided Pennsylvania Superior
Court held that virtually the same language, structure and punctuation
existent here meant that the coverage was restricted to the "insured, his
family members, or any other person occupying the "covered auto; the
antique vehicle." Id. at 31. The court said further that [c]overage
under this policy is not independent of any connection with the "covered
auto." Id. The court amplified its holding by noting that Mr. Corbett
could not have reasonably ...
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