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KIRKPATRICK v. AIU INSURANCE COMPANY

April 29, 2002

SHAWN KIRKPATRICK AND CHRISTOPHER RYAN, PLAINTIFFS,
V.
AIU INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Curtis Joyner, J.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Presently before the Court are the Motions for Summary Judgment of Plaintiffs Shawn Kirkpatrick ("Kirkpatrick") and Christopher Ryan ("Ryan") (collectively referred to as "Plaintiffs") and Defendant AIU Insurance Company ("AIU" or "Defendant"). This is a declaratory judgment action regarding uninsured motorists coverage for injuries sustained in a carjacking. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment and deny Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

BACKGROUND

This case arises from a carjacking that occurred on June 29, 1999, at a 7-Eleven in Yeadon, Pennsylvania. Prior to the carjacking, Ryan, driving his own car, picked up Kirkpatrick to go get something to eat. Plaintiffs then stopped at the 7-Eleven to allow Kirkpatrick to purchase a pack of cigarettes and to allow Ryan to make a telephone call. Kirkpatrick entered the 7-Eleven, made his purchase, and then returned to the car. Ryan then went to make a phone call at a payphone. While Ryan was on the phone, a man came up to the car and placed what appeared to be a gun to Kirkpatrick's back and ordered him out of the car. An unidentified male and female entered the car as Kirkpatrick exited the car. When Ryan noticed what was happening, he returned to the driver's side of the car and opened the door in an attempt to either make the people in the car get out or to get the keys out of the car. Also at this time, Kirkpatrick noticed that the gun that was placed to his back earlier did not look real.

As Ryan reached into the car to get his keys, the assailants put the car in reverse. Kirkpatrick ran to the back of the vehicle to attempt to stop it, but Kirkpatrick got of the way when the car started moving. The carjackers started to accelerate in reverse and, in doing so, knocked Ryan over and wedged him between the car and the ground. Ryan was then dragged through the 7-Eleven parking lot and into the street. When the carjackers started to move forward with the car, Ryan became unwedged. Kirkpatrick then reached into the car to try to stop the carjackers by turning off the ignition. Kirkpatrick may have also been punching one of the carjackers in the face. At this point the girl carjacker bit Kirkpatrick and he got his arm caught inside the car behind the door and seat. The car then accelerated forward with Kirkpatrick's arm stuck in the window. Kirkpatrick was able to run alongside the car for a short distance, but when the car accelerated to a higher rate of speed, he lost his footing and was being dragged by the moving car.*fn1 In an attempt to get Kirkpatrick off the car, the carjackers drove into a parked car so that Kirkpatrick was pinned between the moving car and the parked car. At this point, Kirkpatrick was freed from the car.

Both Ryan and Kirkpatrick suffered physical injuries including lacerations, abrasions, cuts, bruises, and ankle and knee injuries. Ryan ultimately had surgery to correct his ankle injury and Kirkpatrick has surgery on both of his knees.

Ryan's car was covered under an insurance policy that provided uninsured motorists benefits. After exhausting their first party medical benefits,*fn2 the Plaintiffs sought to obtain additional benefits under the uninsured motorists portion of the policy. AIU disputes that there is coverage under the policy. Both parties have filed summary judgment motions and have attached the pertinent deposition testimony to their motions.

DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

1. Standard for Interpreting Insurance Contracts

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court*fn3 has established the following guidelines for interpreting insurance contracts:

The task of interpreting [an insurance] contract is generally performed by a court rather than a jury. The goal of the task is, of course, to ascertain the intent of the parties as manifested by the language of the written instrument. Where a provision of a policy is ambiguous, the policy provision is to be construed in favor of the insured and against the insurer, the drafter of the agreement. Where, however, the language of the contract is clear and unambiguous, a court is required to give effect to the language.

Standard Venetian Blind Co. v. American Empire Insurance Co., 469 A.2d 563, 566 (Pa. 1983).

2. Summary Judgment Standard

In deciding a motion for summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), a court must determine "whether there is a genuine issue of material fact and, if not, whether the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Medical Protective Co. v. Watkins, 198 F.3d 100, 103 (3d Cir. 1999) (internal citation omitted). When making this determination, courts should view the facts, and reasonable inferences drawn therefrom, in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See, e.g., Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). For its part, the non-moving party must, through affidavits, admissions, depositions, or other evidence, demonstrate that a genuine issue exists for trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). In making its showing, the non-moving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts," id. at 586, and must produce more than a "mere scintilla of evidence in its favor" to withstand summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). If the non-moving party fails to create "sufficient disagreement to require submission [of the evidence] to a jury," the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 251-52.

B. Coverage for Plaintiffs' Injuries Under the AIU Policy

1. The Policy

The Policy at issue provides for uninsured motorists coverage as follows: "we will pay reasonable expenses incurred for necessary medical and funeral services because of bodily injury (1) caused by accident and (2) sustained by an insured." See Policy, Part C, at ¶ A. Insured is defined thusly: "`[i]nsured' as used in this part means: (1) you or any family member (a) while occupying or (b) as a pedestrian struck by a motor vehicle designed for use mainly on the public roads . . . (2) or any other person while occupying your covered auto." Id. at ¶ B.

Bodily injury "means accidental bodily harm to a person and that person's resulting illness, disease or death." See Policy Endorsement Changing First Party Benefits Coverage at ¶ B(1). The Uninsured Motorists Coverage Endorsement further states that bodily injury must be caused by an accident arising out of the maintenance or use of the motor vehicle. See Uninsured Motorists Coverage Endorsement at ¶ A(1). The policy does not define accident and the uninsured motorists coverage portion of the policy does not include an exclusionary clause excluding and/or defining intentional acts.

Coverage for Plaintiffs' Injuries

AIU argues that Plaintiffs' injuries are not covered under the terms of the policy because their injuries were not caused by an accident but rather were caused by their own intentional conduct. AIU argues that if Plaintiffs had not tried to stop the carjackers from stealing the car they would not have been injured, and thus it was ...


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