The opinion of the court was delivered by: A. Richard Caputo United States District Judge
In this non-jury trial, the major issue was whether the doctrine of estoppel compels a finding that the Plaintiff is estopped from claiming that total stacked underinsured motorist ("UIM") coverage is anything but $400,000*fn1 .
This memorandum shall constitute the findings of fact and conclusions of law required in non-jury trials. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 52(a).
On April 13, 2004, Allstate Indemnity Company ("Allstate") filed a Civil Action Complaint for Declaratory Judgment pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2201, in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, wherein Allstate sought a declaration of rights, duties and liabilities under an automobile policy of insurance issued by Allstate to Dennis J. Coroniti ("Coroniti") for an automobile accident that occurred on October 3, 2000.
On May 5, 2004, Coroniti filed an Answer with Affirmative Defenses to Allstate's Declaratory Judgment Complaint.
Allstate issued to Coroniti policy number 618048987, an automobile liability policy, for the relevant time period from April 12, 2000 to October 12, 2000. Coroniti had initially purchased automobile insurance from Allstate in 1988.
On or about October 3, 2000, Coroniti was operating a 1998 Chevrolet Suburban when he was involved in a motor vehicle accident and suffered personal injuries. Coroniti initiated a civil cause of action against the tortfeasor involved in the motor vehicle accident wherein pleadings were filed and discovery was initiated. See Coroniti v. Kumor (C.P., Lackawanna Cty., No. 02-CV-2820).
On May 2, 2002, John Mulcahey, Esquire, Mr. Coroniti's counsel, had a telephone conference with Donna Kifer, an employee of Plaintiff, in which she advised Mr. Mulcahey, there were four vehicles on the policy each with $100,000 in UIM coverage, which meant to him there was $400,000 in coverage.
By letter dated May 31, 2002, Mr. Mulcahey notified Allstate that he was pursuing an UIM claim against Allstate from the October 3, 2000 accident. (Defendant's Ex. 4.) On June 3, 2002, Coroniti's claim for underinsured motorist coverage was assigned to Casualty Negotiator Sandra Levan who had been employed by Allstate for eleven years and exclusively handled UIM claims since May 1999. On June 3, 2002, Ms. Levan reviewed computer information and concluded the UIM limits were $400,000 -- $100,000 stacked by four vehicles -- as confirmed in her claim notes on June 3, 2002 and June 7, 2002. Ms. Levan then requested a certified copy of the declaration sheet and policy. On June 7, 2002, Ms. Levan memorialized in her claim note, "Dec and policy rec'd - confirms SU100/300, stk x 4 vhs, full tort."
On June 7, 2002, Ms. Levan requested a certified copy of Policy Number 618048987 and the Declarations Page. By letter dated June 12, 2002, Ms. Levan forwarded the certified copy of Policy Number 618048987 and Declarations Page for the time period from April 12, 2000 to October 12, 2000, to Mr. Mulcahey. Ms. Levan forwarded a Suit Report to defense counsel stating, "We have UIM cvg 100/300 stk x 4 vhs."
Mr. Mulcahey reviewed the Declarations Page and the Policy and determined independently of the statements of Ms. Kifer and Ms. Levan that the coverage was $400,000.
By letter dated September 29, 2003, Coroniti's counsel made a demand for Allstate to tender its $400,000 UIM policy within thirty (30) days. The September 29, 2003 demand to Allstate's counsel included expert reports of an economic expert, Dr. Jonathan Cunitz dated September 25, 2003; a vocational expert, Carole Fisher dated September 9, 2003 and, a medical expert, Dr. Gentilezza dated August 15, 2003.
By letter dated October 7, 2003, Ms. Levan responded to the September 29, 2003 letter in which she acknowledged receipt of the demand for the $400,000 policy limits and stated that because the investigation was ongoing, she was unable to make an offer of settlement. On October 18, 2003, Coroniti forwarded correspondence to adjuster, Sandra Levan, renewing the demand for the $400,000 UIM policy. Ms. Levan ...