The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN E. JONES, District Judge
THE BACKGROUND OF THIS ORDER IS AS FOLLOWS:
Pending before the Court are cross-motions for Summary Judgment
filed by Plaintiff Nationwide Insurance Company ("Nationwide" or
"Plaintiff") and by Defendants Sharon and Charles P. Chiao
("Defendants"). (Rec. Docs. 10 and 13). Following briefing by the
parties, we held oral argument on the Motions on May 13, 2005.
The Motions are now ripe for our review. Diversity jurisdiction
in this Court is proper pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1332.
For the following reasons, we will grant the Defendants' Motion
for Summary Judgment and deny Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment. STANDARD OF REVIEW:
Summary judgment is appropriate if "there is no genuine issue
as to any material fact and . . . the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law." Fed .R. Civ. P. 56(c); see also
Turner v. Schering-Plough Corp., 901 F.2d 335, 340 (3d Cir.
1990). The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of
showing "there is no genuine issue for trial." Young v.
Quinlan, 960 F.2d 351, 357 (3d Cir. 1992). Summary judgment
should not be granted when there is a disagreement about the
facts or the proper inferences which a fact finder could draw
from them. Peterson v. Lehigh Valley Dist. Council,
676 F.2d 81, 84 (3d Cir. 1982).
Initially, the moving party has a burden of demonstrating the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corporation
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). This may be met by the
moving party pointing out to the court that there is an absence of evidence
to support an essential element as to which the non-moving party will bear
the burden of proof at trial. Id. at 325.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that, where such a
motion is made and properly supported, the non-moving party must
then show by affidavits, pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, that there is a genuine
issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). The United States Supreme Court has commented that this requirement is tantamount to the
non-moving party making a sufficient showing as to the essential
elements of their case that a reasonable jury could find in its
favor. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322-23.
It is important to note that "the non-moving party cannot rely
upon conclusory allegations in its pleadings or in memoranda and
briefs to establish a genuine issue of material fact." Pastore
v. Bell Tel. Co. of Pa., 24 F.3d 508, 511 (3d Cir. 1994)
(citation omitted). However, all inferences "should be drawn in
the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and where the
non-moving party's evidence contradicts the movant's, then the
non-movant's must be taken as true." Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW
of N. Am., Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992), cert.
denied, 507 U.S. 912 (1993) (citations omitted).
Still, "the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute
between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly
supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that
there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in
original). "As to materiality, the substantive law will identify
which facts are material." Id. at 248. A dispute is considered
to be genuine only if "the evidence is such that a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. STATEMENT OF MATERIAL FACTS:
The facts of this case are, in the main, undisputed.*fn1
On December 8, 1998 Defendant Sharon Chiao was a passenger in a
1990 Plymouth Voyager owned and operated by Chiao's coworker
Janet K. Wilkinson ("Wilkinson") that was involved in a serious
accident. At the time of the accident the two women were both
employees of the Pennsylvania State University and were returning
from Reading, Pennsylvania to their homes in Schuylkill County,
Pennsylvania where they had traveled for an employer-sponsored
The incident occurred when Wilkinson's attention to the road
temporarily lapsed as she put out her cigarette. When Wilkinson's
attention refocused on the road, she saw a vehicle stopped for a
school bus immediately in front of her minivan. In an attempt to
avoid a collision with the stopped vehicle, Wilkinson swerved to
the right towards an embankment. The vehicle hit the embankment
and flipped over. Passenger Sharon Chiao suffered significant and
life-altering personal injuries.
Following the incident, the Chiaos asserted a claim against
Wilkinson, who was insured by the Progressive Insurance Company.
In settlement of the Chiaos' claim, Progressive paid her the
entire $15,000 value of Wilkinson's policy. In addition, Sharon Chiao's employer has paid her workers'
compensation benefits pursuant to the Pennsylvania Workmen's
Compensation Act, codified at 77 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1 et seq.
At the time of the incident, Chiao was herself insured by the
Defendant. In addition to a standard automobile insurance policy,
Chiao had purchased an underinsured motorist ("UIM") insurance
policy (the "UIM Policy") from the Plaintiff, an optional
coverage in Pennsylvania, against which Chiao has now asserted a
claim as a result of the accident. Nationwide filed this action
seeking a declaratory judgment that it need not pay Chiao for her
injuries because she is not "due [payment] by law" as per the
terms of the UIM Policy. (Cmplt. ¶ 13, Rec. Doc. 1). The UIM
Policy is governed by the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial
Responsibility Law, codified at 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1701 et
The question before the Court is a succinct and unresolved
question of Pennsylvania law: whether an automobile insurer must
provide coverage to an insured who has purchased supplemental UIM
insurance when the ...