The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas I. Vanaskie, Chief Judge.
This is an action for Declaratory Judgment pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2201 and 2202, with jurisdiction based on the diversity
statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Presently pending before the Court is
plaintiff United States Fidelity and Guaranty Company's ("USF&G") motion
for judgment on the pleadings. (Dkt. Entry 5.) Defendant, Ceil Ann
Tierney ("Tierney"), the Corporate Secretary of Tierney Associates, Inc.
("Tierney Associates"), seeks underinsured motorist benefits under a
policy issued by USF&G to Tierney Associates. USF&G contends that Tierney
cannot recover because she was not riding in a covered vehicle at the
time of the accident and she is not identified as a named insured under
the terms of the policy. Tierney maintains that coverage should be
extended to her as an intended beneficiary based on her status as a
corporate officer. Because the policy at issue unambiguously identifies
Tierney Associates, Inc. as the named insured, and does not extend
coverage to corporate officers, USF&G's motion for judgment on the
pleadings will be granted.
On or a bout July 16, 2000, USF&G issued a renewal business automobile
policy to Tierney Associates, Inc., Policy No. BFA00000617571, with a
coverage period from July 16, 2000 to July 16, 2001. (Complaint, ¶
8.)*fn1 The policy included, inter alia, coverage pursuant to the
Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law, 75 Pa.C.S.A.
§ 1701, with limits for underinsurance motorist benefits in the
amount of $300,000. (Id.) During the policy period, Tierney was Corporate
Secretary of Tierney Associates. (Id., ¶ 10.)
On August 19, 2000, Tierney was injured in a motor vehicle accident
while a passenger in a car owned and operated by Edward Kupstas. (Id.,
¶ 11.) Tierney obtained recovery of the liability limits on the
policy covering Mr. Kupstas' vehicle, as well as the limits for
underinsurance coverage available to her under her personal automobile
insurance. (D's Br. in Opp. to Mot'n for Judgment on the Pleadings, p.
1.) Tierney claims entitlement to underinsured motorist benefits under
the USF&G policy issued to Tierney Associates.
On September 4, 2001, plaintiff moved for judgment on the pleadings
pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the F.R.C.P. In addition to the submission of
written briefs, the parties presented oral argument to the Court on
February 20, 2002. The issue before the Court is whether the policy
issued to Tierney Associates, Inc., a corporate entity, provides
underinsured motorist coverage to Ceil Ann Tierney based on her status as
a corporate officer.
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), any party may move for
judgment after the pleadings are closed. Under Rule 12(c), a court must
accept all factual averments as true and draw all reasonable inferences
in favor of the non-moving party. See Society Hill Civic Ass'n v.
Harris, 632 F.2d 1045, 1054 (3d Cir. 1980). A party moving for judgment
on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) must demonstrate that there are no
disputed material facts and that judgment should be entered as a matter
of law. See Jablonski v. Pan American World Airways, Inc., 863 F.2d 289,
290-91 (3d Cir. 1988); Institute for Scientific Info., Inc. v. Gordon &
Breach, Science Publishers, Inc. 931 F.2d 1002, 1005 (3rd Cir.), cert.
denied, 502 U.S. 909 (1991). Judgment may only be entered where "no set
of facts could be adduced to support the plaintiff's claim for relief."
Bryson v. Brand Insulations, Inc., 621 F.2d 556, 559 (3d Cir. 1980). The
parties are in agreement that the pleadings disclose the facts pertinent
to the resolution of the coverage issue.
USF&G issued a Business Automobile Policy to Tierney Associates. The
Business Automobile Policy Declarations indicate that the "Forms and
Endorsements Applicable to this policy" include, inter alia, the Business
Auto Coverage form (CA 00010797) and the Pennsylvania Underinsured
Motorist Coverage — Nonstacked Form (CA 2193198). (See Ex. A to the
Complaint.) The Business Coverage Auto Form states that "[t]hroughout
this policy the words `you' and `your' refer to the Named Insured shown
in the Declarations."*fn2 The Underinsured Motorists ("UIM") endorsement
on the policy in question identifies the "Named Insured" as "TIERNEY
ASSOCIATES, INC." (See Ex. "A" to Complaint.) Ceil Ann Tierney is not
identified anywhere on the policy, the UIM endorsement, or the policy's
declaration pages. The UIM endorsement to the policy provides that USF&G
"will pay all sums the `insured' is legally entitled to recover from the
owner or driver of an `underinsured motor vehicle.'" (Complaint, Ex.
"A", emphasis added.) The UIM endorsement then identifies the person
entitled to UIM coverage as follows:
2. If you are an individual, any "family member."
3. Anyone else "occupying" a covered "motor
vehicle" . . .
4. Anyone for damages he or she is entitled to recover
because of "bodily injury" sustained by an other
As USF&G points out, "[h]istorically, Pennsylvania courts have
categorized Underinsured Motorist claimants . . . into three classes."
(Pl's Br. in Support of Mot'n for Judgment on the Pleadings, p. 3)
(citing Utica Mut. Ins. Co. v. Contrisciane, 504 Pa. 328, 473 A.2d 1005,
1010 (1984).) Generally, the three classes of intended insureds are:
(1) "class one" includes "the named insured and any
designated insured, and, while residents of the same
household, the spouse and relatives of either";
(2) "class two" includes "any other person while
occupying an insured highway vehicle"; and
(3) "class three" includes any person with respect to
damages he is entitled to recover[,] because of bodily
injury to which this insurance applies[,] sustained by
an insured under (1) or (2) above. (i.e., a spouse
claiming loss of consortium).
Jeffrey v. Erie Ins. Exchange, 423 Pa. Super. 483, 621 A.2d 635, 644
(1993) (en banc), app. denied, 537 Pa. 651, 644 A.2d 736 (1994).
In the case at bar, it is undisputed that Tierney is neither a class II
insured — she was not in a covered vehicle at the time she was
injured; nor a class III insured — she is not claiming coverage
based on another's injuries. The dispute here is whether Tierney should
be regarded as a class I beneficiary. Observing that a corporation cannot
suffer bodily injury and that a corporation can only act through its
officers and employees, Tierney maintains that corporate officers must be
regarded as class I insureds in a corporate policy.
Resolution of Ms. Tierney's status is dependent upon an interpretation
of the insurance contract in the context of Pennsylvania law.*fn3 Of
course, decisions of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court are controlling.
Coviello, 233 F.3d at 713. But, as explained by our Court of Appeals,
"[i]f the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has not yet passed on the issue
before us, we must consider the pronouncements of the lower state
courts, as well as federal appeals and district court cases interpreting
state law." Id. In addition, decisions from other states may also be
considered. Boyanowski v. Capital Area Intermediate Unit, 215 F.3d 396,
406 (3d Cir. 2000).
Each party in this case advances a separate Pennsylvania Superior Court
opinion in support of its position. Further confounding the situation is
the fact that each Pennsylvania Superior Court decision was affirmed by