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Andrew Richardson v. Selective Insurance Company of America

May 31, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert F. Kelly, Sr. J.


Presently before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Plaintiff Andrew Richardson ("Richardson"), and a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Selective Insurance Company ("Selective"). For the following reasons, Richardson's Motion will be denied, and Selective's Motion will be granted.


Richardson brought this action for declaratory relief pursuant to Pennsylvania's Declaratory Judgment Act, 42 Pa.C.S.A., §7531 et seq. against Selective. Richardson seeks a declaration of coverage for underinsured motorist ("UIM") benefits due him for injuries sustained in an accident pursuant to a commercial automobile policy*fn1 (the "Policy") issued by Selective to his employer, Manheim Township. (Pl.'s Mot. Summ. J. at 1-2.)

On April 18, 2009, Richardson was struck by an underinsured motor vehicle*fn2 while walking as a pedestrian across the intersection of Route 455 and Sipe Avenue in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Richardson was employed as a Township Manager for West Manheim Township (the "Township"). (Richardson Dep. at 10-11.) On this date, as part of his employment with the Township, Richardson traveled to Hershey to attend a conference to be held on April 19, 2009 at the Hershey Lodge (the "Lodge"). (Id. at 30-31.) Richardson was driving a 1999 Jeep owned and insured by the Township. (Id. 19, 22-25.)

Richardson arrived in Hershey at approximately 7:00 p.m., and checked into the Best Western Hotel. (Id. at 32-33.) A short time later, Richardson walked from his room to Fuddruckers, a local restaurant, to eat dinner. The restaurant was located on Route 422 across from the Best Western Motel, but on the same side as the Lodge. (Id. at 32.) After dinner, Richardson walked back to his hotel room to put warmer clothing on, and he decided to walk to the Lodge to check out conference times for the next day. (Id. at 34.) While attempting to cross Route 422 on foot, Richardson was struck by the underinsured vehicle. Richardson testified that he was not in, getting into, or getting out of the Township Jeep at the time of the accident. (Id. at 41.) He also testified that he had no intention of getting into his car and/or driving anywhere upon returning from the Lodge. (Id. at 40.) As a result of the accident, Richardson suffered injuries to his pelvis, left leg, right arm, as well as some internal injuries and head injuries. (Id. at 40.)

Moreover, as a result of the accident, Richardson received $25,000 of benefits from the insurance company of the driver who struck him, approximately $300,000 in UIM benefits from his personal insurer, Geico Insurance Company, and approximately $200,000 in workers compensation benefits from the Township's workers compensation carrier. (Id. at 20-22.) In addition, the workers compensation carrier will continue to pay medical bills until June 2011. (Id. at 22.)


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) states that summary judgment is proper "if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." See Hines v. Consol. Rail Corp., 926 F.2d 262, 267 (3d Cir. 1991). The Court asks "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to the jury or whether . . . one party must prevail as a matter of law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986). The moving party has the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for the motion and identifying those portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). "A fact is material if it could affect the outcome of the suit after applying the substantive law. Further, a dispute over a material fact must be 'genuine,' i.e., the evidence must be such 'that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the non-moving party.'" Compton v. Nat'l League of Prof'l Baseball Clubs, 995 F. Supp. 554, 561 n.14 (E.D. Pa. 1998).

Summary judgment must be granted "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. Once the moving party has produced evidence in support of summary judgment, the non-moving party must go beyond the allegations set forth in its pleadings and counter with evidence that presents "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); see Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am. Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1362-63 (3d Cir. 1992). "More than a mere scintilla of evidence in its favor" must be presented by the non-moving party in order to overcome a summary judgment motion. Tziatzios v. United States, 164 F.R.D. 410, 411-12 (E.D. Pa. 1996). If the court determines that there are no genuine issues of material fact, then summary judgment will be granted. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.


A. "Occupying" the Vehicle

Under the Policy, in order to qualify for UIM benefits, Richardson must demonstrate that he is an "insured." Under the UIM policy language, anyone "occupying" a covered motor vehicle is an insured.*fn3 (See Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. I.) There is no dispute here that the 1999 Jeep that Richardson drove to Hershey was a covered "motor vehicle" under the policy. Selective asserts that Richardson is not an "insured" under the Policy because he was not "occupying" the vehicle at the time of the accident. We agree.

The principles that govern this Court's interpretation of an insurance contract under Pennsylvania law are well settled. "The goal is to ascertain the intent of the parties as manifested by the language of the written instrument." Alleman v. State Farm Life Ins. Co., 508 F. Supp. 2d 452, 455 (W.D. Pa. 2007). Interpretation of an insurance ...

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