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Travelers Personal Insurance Co. v. Estate of Parzych

December 2, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anita B. Brody, J.



Plaintiff, Travelers Personal Insurance Company ("Travelers"), brings this suit against Defendants, the Estate of Scott Parzych and Jacqueline Parzych ("the Parzychs"), seeking a declaration that it is not obligated to provide underinsured/uninsured motorist ("UIM") benefits to Scott's Estate under the insurance policy held by his mother, Jacqueline. The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment, as well as their respective responses and replies.


The following facts are not in dispute. On November 15, 2007, Scott Parzych was killed in a motor vehicle accident. Scott was not at fault; he was merely a passenger. His death came less than four months after his marriage to his girlfriend of five years, Julie Cajina, on August 24, 2007. After the wedding, Scott, Julie, and Julie's son, Tyler, returned to their life as a family unit in an apartment at 30 West Vine St. in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, where all three had been living for the previous year (approximately). Both Julie and Scott were co-signors for the apartment lease.

Prior to their move into the Hatfield apartment, Julie had lived with Tyler alone in an apartment in Telford, Pennsylvania, and Scott had lived at the house his parents rented in North Whales, Pennsylvania. Scott, Julie, and Tyler moved to the apartment in Hatfield, which was approximately fifteen minutes away from Scott's parents' house, because Scott and Julie wanted to live together and they needed more space for Tyler.

Scott was the youngest of three children of Val and Jacqueline Parzych. Prior to his moving in with Julie, Scott had always resided with his parents in their North Whales house. Even after moving in with Julie, Scott frequently visited his parents' house, mostly on the weekends, often sleeping over there with Julie and Tyler. According to Jacqueline, Scott came over to her house at least once a week.

Both Julie and Tyler felt welcome at the Parzychs' house. Scott's parents often babysat Tyler so that Julie and Scott could socialize. For example, Julie and Scott were in a billiards league and when they played nearby the North Whales house, they often dropped Tyler off with Scott's parents and slept over after league play ended that night. In the morning, Julie and Scott would take Tyler home with them to their apartment. Scott, Julie, and Tyler all left personal effects at the North Whales house, including clothes and toiletries. The house has five bedrooms and there was always room for Scott, Julie, and Tyler.

It was only on rare occasions that Scott stayed at his parents' house without Julie and Tyler. Scott worked at a pool installation business, located only blocks away from his parents' house. Sometimes when heavy snowfall was predicted, Scott stayed over at the house, helped shovel snow in the morning, and walked to work. From time to time, he also stopped by the house in the middle of the day when there was a lull at work, primarily to graze for food in the kitchen or go on the computer. Scott's old bedroom still housed his bed, dresser, and radio. He also still received some mail at his parents' house, although his credit card bills, bank statements, and cell phone bills were delivered to the Hatfield apartment.

At the time of his death, Scott was listed as an insured driver on two Travelers insurance policies--one held by Jacqueline and the other held by Julie. Jacqueline obtained her policy from her insurance agent, Steven Canuso, in August of 2002. Canuso encouraged Jacqueline to include Scott on the policy because at the time Scott was living with his parents. However, when Scott moved in with Julie and Tyler, Jacqueline never updated the policy. Canuso also did not update the policy even though Scott had told him that he was living with Julie and going to marry her.

Julie also obtained her policy from Canuso. After Scott's death, Travelers paid Julie, the Administratrix of Scott's Estate, the policy limits for the UIM benefits to which the Estate was entitled under her policy. Nevertheless, the Estate also made a claim to doubledip for UIM benefits under Jacqueline's policy. Travelers has refused to pay any additional UIM benefits because it believes that Scott was not a resident of Jacqueline's home at the time of his death.


This Court has subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332.*fn1 Under the doctrine of Erie R.R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64 (1938), federal courts sitting in diversity must apply the substantive law of the forum state, as set forth by the highest court in the state. Packard v. Provident Nat'l Bank, 994 F.2d 1039, 1046 (3d Cir. 1993). As this is a contract dispute, Pennsylvania's choice of law rules for contract cases control. Pennsylvania generally applies "the law of the place with the most significant contacts with, and the most interest in, the dispute." Pollard v. Autotote, Ltd., 852 F.2d 67, 70 n.3 (3d Cir. 1988). The contract at issue here was signed in Pennsylvania and the Parzychs live and work in Pennsylvania; therefore, Pennsylvania law applies to this dispute. See id.

Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(2), summary judgment "should be rendered if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Id. "[T]here is no issue for trial unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party. If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986) (internal citations omitted).


Both Julie and Jacqueline's policies define an "insured" ...

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