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Robert Sona and Trudi Sona v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company.

March 28, 2011

ROBERT SONA AND TRUDI SONA , PLAINTIFFS,
v.
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY. DEFENDANT,



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court are Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. (Docs. 12 and 14.) For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiffs' Summary Judgment Motion will be granted and Defendant's Summary Judgment Motion will be denied.

BACKGROUND

I. Factual Background

The facts in the case have been stipulated to by the parties per a Stipulated Order filed on October 21, 2010. (Doc. 13.) The accident forming the basis of the claims here occurred at Jacobino's Garage in Carbondale, Pennsylvania, on March 4, 2010. On that day, Robert Sona drove to the garage to have his van's tires rotated and the oil changed. In the back of the van was a used dirt bike that Mr. Sona had recently purchased for his son. Upon arriving at the garage, Mr. Sona parked his van and he and his son-in-law proceeded to take the dirt-bike out of the back of the van so that its oil could also be changed. After the dirt bike was removed, a mechanic at the garage proceeded to drive Mr. Sona's van into the garage's first bay. At that point, Mr. Sona began to manually push the dirt bike into the garage. Mr. Sona never sat on the dirt bike and did not have the bike's key in his possession. While moving the bike across the parking lot, a Chevrolet Trail Blazer operated by a Kimberly Zantowski backed out of a parking spot and struck Mr. Sona's right hand. Mr. Sona sustained significant injuries as a result of the accident. At the time, Ms. Zantowski was insured with GEICO Insurance Company under a policy which carried Bodily Injury Limits of fifteen-thousand dollars ($15,000). GEICO tendered its policy limits of fifteen-thousand dollars ($15,000) in exchange for a General Release settling any and all claims against the tortfeasor. Mr. Sona then received permission from State Farm to accept the fifteen-thousand ($15,000) as full and final resolution of his claims against Ms. Zantowski. Mr. Sona subsequently made a claim for Underinsured Motorist Benefits and Medical Payments Coverage under his State Farm Policy Numbers 1486-924-38 and 1077837-C20-38T.

At the time of the accident the Sonas were covered by three separate automobile insurance policies they had with State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance: (1) policy number 121 6615-E12-38D, which insured the Sonas' 2000 Dodge B3500 Van; (2) policy number 107 7837-C20-38T, which insured a 2000 Plymouth Neon; and (3) policy number 148 6924-38, which insured a 1997 Ford F Series dump truck. The Van policy had Underinsured Motor Vehicle Coverage of one-hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) per person and three-hundred thousand ($300,000) per occurrence, unstacked, and Medical Payments Coverage of ten-thousand dollars ($10,000) per occurrence. The Neon Policy had Underinsured Motor Vehicle Coverage of twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000) per person and fifty-thousand ($50,000) per occurrence, stacked, and Medical Payments Coverage of one-hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) per occurrence. The Dump Truck Policy had Underinsured Motor Vehicle Coverage of one-hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) per person and three-hundred thousand dollars ($300,000) per occurrence, stacked, and Medical Payments Coverage of five-thousand ($5,000) per occurrence. All three policies contain the following Insuring Agreement:

We will pay compensatory damages for bodily injury an insured is legally entitled to recover from the owner or driver of an underinsured motor vehicle. The bodily injury must be:

1. sustained by the insured; and

2. caused by an accident that involves the ownership, maintenance, or use of an underinsured motor vehicle as a motor vehicle.

(Ex. D, pp. 23-4). The Van Policy contains the following exclusionary language in its Underinsured Motor Vehicle Coverage Section:

THERE IS NO COVERAGE FOR ANY INSURED WHO SUSTAINS BODILY INJURY WHILE OCCUPYING A MOTOR VEHICLE OWNED BY YOU OR ANY RESIDENT RELATIVE IF IT IS NOT YOUR CAR OR A NEWLY ACQUIRED CAR.

This exclusion does not apply to the first person shown as a named insured on the Declarations Page and that named insured's spouse who resides primarily with that named insured, while occupying a motor vehicle not owned by one or both of them. (Id. at 26). The Neon Policy and the Dump Truck Policy contain a virtually identical provision that is worded slightly differently: "THERE IS NO COVERAGE FOR AN INSURED WHO SUSTAINS BODILY INJURY WHILE OCCUPYING A MOTOR VEHICLE OWNED BY THAT INSURED IF THE VEHICLE IS NOT INSURED FOR UNDERINSURED MOTOR VEHICLE COVERAGE UNDER THIS POLICY OR ANY OTHER POLICY." (Id.) In the Medical Payments Coverage section of all three policies, there is the following provision and exclusion: "We will pay for medical expenses for bodily injury to an insured arising out of the maintenance or use of a motor vehicle." (Id. at 13.) "THERE IS NOT COVERAGE FOR BODILY INJURY . . . TO ANY PERSON WHILE OPERATING OR OCCUPYING . . . A RECREATIONAL VEHICLE NOT INTENDED FOR HIGHWAY USE; OR . . . A MOTORCYCLE, MOTOR-DRIVEN CYCLE, MOTORIZED PEDALCYCLE OR LIKE TYPE VEHICLE REQUIRED TO BE REGISTERED UNDER TITLE 75 OF THE PENNSYLVANIA CONSOLIDATED STATUTES." (Id. at 16.)

II. Procedural History

The Sonas initiated the instant suit with the filing of a Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County on June 7, 2010. The suit was then removed by State Farm. The Complaint included claims for Breach of Contract, Bad Faith pursuant to 42 Pa. C.S. § 8371, and Violation of the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Act § 1797(b)(4) and (6). After the Sonas filed their Complaint, State Farm filed a Cross-Complaint seeking Declaratory Judgment. By Order of this Court dated August 12, 2010, the two cases were consolidated. (Doc. 9.) By a Stipulated Order filed on October 21, 2010, the parties agreed that the pleadings were closed, discovery was complete, the stipulated facts would include the entire transcript from Robert Sona, and that the sole issues before the Court was whether there was coverage under the State Farm ...


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