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Wilson v. Great American Insurance Group

United States District Court, Third Circuit

October 29, 2013

SHAWN WILSON and TONYA WILSON, Plaintiffs,
v.
GREAT AMERICAN INSURANCE GROUP, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

Jan E. DuBois., J.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs, Shawn and Tonya Wilson, have petitioned the Court to compel defendant Great American Insurance Group (Great American) to arbitrate an underinsured motorist claim in accordance with the arbitration provisions of an insurance policy. Presently before the Court is defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment on Behalf of Great American Insurance Company. The sole issue presented by defendant’s Motion is whether the applicable statute of limitations bars plaintiffs’ claim. For the following reasons, the Court denies Great American’s Motion for Summary Judgment and grants Shawn and Tonya Wilson’s Petition to Compel Arbitration. The parties are directed to proceed to arbitration in accordance with the terms of their agreement.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND[1]

On September 25, 2006, an automobile driven by Luz Mendoza struck Shawn Wilson, while he was driving a motor vehicle owned by the Police Athletic League (PAL) of Philadelphia. Def.’s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. A. At the time of the accident, Mendoza’s vehicle was insured by GEICO Insurance Co. (GEICO), whose policy provided for $15, 000 in liability coverage. Def.’s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. B. Mr. Wilson’s vehicle was insured by Great American, whose policy provided underinsured motorist coverage for any authorized occupant of the vehicle.[2] Def.’s Mot. for Summ. J. ¶ 4. Mr. Wilson also had insurance coverage through Allstate Insurance Co. (Allstate) for his personally owned motor vehicle. Def.’s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. D.

On April 30, 2008, Mr. Wilson’s counsel faxed Great American a letter, which stated, inter alia:

Since our telephone conversation yesterday, I have received telephone communication from GEICO Insurance Company, carrier for the Tortfeasor Luza Mendoza, whose SUV collided with the Neon which Mr. Wilson was operating. GEICO has verbally tendered its insurance policy limits of coverage in the amount of $15, 000 to Shawn Wilson relative to his claims against this Tortfeasor.
Accordingly, at this time, preliminarily, I seek Authorization from Great American Insurance Company to accept the tendered $15, 000 policy limits of Luz Mendoza, with a view towards prosecuting a claim for UIM benefits under the PAL policy, if such coverage exists.

Id. On June 9, 2008, Great American, as requested, “g[ave] written authorization to accept he underlying policy limits.” Def.’s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. C. By letter dated June 16, 2008, Mr. Wilson’s counsel responded to Great American, stating that he was “in receipt of [Great American’s] June 9, 2008 correspondence . . . giv[ing] written authorization to accept the underlying policy limits, ” but that prior to Mr. Wilson doing so, he was “also awaiting the authorization of Allstate Insurance Company.” Id.

By letter dated August 25, 2008, Allstate “den[ied] underinsured motorist coverage to Shawn Wilson.” Def.’s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. E. In response, Mr. Wilson’s counsel sent Allstate a second letter, dated September 5, 2008, renewing his prior request for authorization.

Def.’s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. G. On September 15, 2008, Allstate responded that “there [was]

no need for Mr. Wilson to obtain Allstate’s consent to settle the underlying tort claim” because Allstate’s policy did not provide Mr. Wilson with underinsurance coverage. Def.’s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. H. On September 17, 2008, Mr. Wilson signed a release of claims absolving Mendoza from further liability. Def.’s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. I.

On September 13, 2012, plaintiffs brought suit to compel arbitration in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. Def.’s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. J. After removing the action to federal court, defendant moved for summary judgment on the ground that plaintiffs’ claim is time-barred. Although neither party disputes that the statute of limitations is four years from the date that Mr. Wilson settled with the tortfeasor, defendant takes issue with plaintiffs’ assertion that the date of settlement is the date of the signed release, September 17, 2008. Defendant argues that ...


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