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Progressive Northern Insurance Corp. v. Gushanas

October 18, 2007

PROGRESSIVE NORTHERN INSURANCE CORPORATION PLAINTIFF
v.
MAUREEN T. GUSHANAS, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN OF DANIEL GUSHANAS, MINOR, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas I. Vanaskie United States District Judge

(JUDGE VANASKIE)

MEMORANDUM

This declaratory judgment action brought in this Court on the basis of diversity of citizenship jurisdiction conferred by 28 U.S.C. § 1332 presents the question of whether the occupant of a motor vehicle insured by Plaintiff Progressive Northern Insurance Corporation ("Progressive") is entitled to stack the limits of uninsured motorist ("UM") coverage that Progressive extended to the owner of that vehicle. Progressive and claimant Maureen T. Gushanas, individually and as parent and natural guardian of Daniel Gushanas have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. (Dkt. Entries 32 & 35.) Because the Progressive policy unambiguously restricts the individuals entitled to stacked coverage to the named insured and relatives of the named insured, and the injured claimant is neither a named insured nor a relative of the named insured, stacking is not available here. Accordingly, Progressive's summary judgment motion will be granted, and the Gushanas motion for summary judgment will be denied.

I. BACKGROUND

On September 8, 2000, Maureen Gushanas was operating a motor vehicle owned and insured by the Honorable Ann H. Lokuta, a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County ("Lokuta vehicle"). (Stipulation of Undisputed Facts, Dkt. Entry 33, ¶¶ 4.5.) Daniel Gushanas, the minor son of Maureen Gushanas, was a passenger in the Lokuta vehicle. (Id. ¶ 8.) While stopped at a red light, the Lokuta vehicle occupied by Maureen and Daniel Gushanas was struck in the rear by a motor vehicle operated by Shawn Robert Reilly, an uninsured motorist. (Id. ¶¶ 10-12.) As a result of the rear-end impact, Daniel Gushanas sustained severe personal injuries. (Id. ¶ 13.)

At the time of the accident, the Lokuta vehicle was insured by Progressive. (Id. ¶ 6.) The Declarations Page for the policy insuring the Lokuta vehicle confirmed UM liability limits of $250,000 for each person, and $500,000 for each accident. (Ex. B to Stipulation of Undisputed Facts, Dkt. Entry 33.) The Declarations Page also confirmed that the UM coverage was "stacked." (Id.)

The insurance policy explained the coverage for "Stacked Limits of Liability" as follows: If you have paid a premium for stacked coverage under this Part III with a split limit, and it is shown on the Declarations Page, when you or a relative sustain bodily injury which is covered under this Part III:

1. the most we will pay for all damages due to bodily injury to one (1) person in any one (1) accident is the "each person" limit of liability shown on the Declarations Page multiplied by the number of covered vehicles shown; and

2. subject to the "each person" limit, our maximum limit of liability for all damages in any one (1) accident is the "each accident" limit of liability shown on the Declarations Page multiplied by the number of covered vehicles shown.

However, this shall not increase the limit of liability applicable to any insured person other than you or a relative. (Ex. A to Stipulation of Undisputed Facts.)

The general definitions section of the policy defines "covered vehicle" as "any vehicle shown on the Declarations Page." (Stipulation of Undisputed Facts ¶ 21.) Three vehicles are listed on the Declarations Page. (See Ex. B to Stipulation of Undisputed Facts.) Thus, the limit of coverage for a person entitled to stacking under the Progressive policy is $750,000.

The general definitions section of the Progressive policy defines "you" as "the person shown as the named insured on the Declarations Page, and that person's spouse if residing in the same household." (Ex. A to Stipulation of Undisputed Facts.) It is undisputed that Ann H. Lokuta is the named insured on the Declarations Page. (See Ex. B to Stipulation of Undisputed Facts.)

Relative is defined to mean "a person residing in the same household as [the named insured] who is related to [the named insured] by blood, marriage, or adoption, including a ward, stepchild, or foster child; and . . . a minor in the legal custody of the named insured, or in the custody of a person residing in [the named insured's] household who is related to [the named insured]." (Stipulation of Undisputed Facts ¶ 21.) It is undisputed that neither Maureen nor Daniel Gushanas is a relative of Judge Lokuta.

Part III of the insurance policy concerns UM coverage. In pertinent part, it obligates Progressive to "pay for damages, other than punitive or exemplary damages, which an insured person is entitled to recover from the owner or operator of an uninsured motor vehicle because of bodily ...


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