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Clarke v. MMG Ins. Co.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

September 4, 2014

TIMOTHY AND DEBRA CLARKE, H/W, Appellants
v.
MMG INSURANCE COMPANY AND F. FREDERICK BREUNINGER & SON, INSURANCE, INC., Appellees

Argued May 21, 2014

Page 272

Appeal from the Order of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County, Civil Division, No(s): 03407. Before PANEPINTO, J. and ALLEN, J.

Jillian A. S. Roman, Philadelphia, for appellants.

Brigid Q. Alford, Camp Hill, for MMG Insurance, appellee.

BEFORE: PANELLA, LAZARUS AND JENKINS, JJ. Judge Lazarus joins the Opinion. Judge Panella files Dissenting Opinion.

OPINION

Page 273

JENKINS, J.

Appellants Timothy and Debra Clarke appeal from the order entered in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas denying their motion for partial summary judgment and granting MMG Insurance Company's (" MMG Insurance" ) cross-motion for partial summary judgment.[1] We vacate and remand for further proceedings.

On April 16, 2012, Plaintiff-Appellant Timothy Clarke suffered serious and permanent injuries in a motor vehicle accident. Mr. Clarke was driving his motorcycle when a car turned in front of him, causing a collision that threw him from his motorcycle. Mr. Clarke suffered multiple injuries and was placed on life support for eleven days at Paoli Memorial Hospital. He underwent multiple surgical procedures before his release.

At the time of the accident, Mr. Clarke had two motor vehicle insurance policies in effect. American Modern Select Insurance Company issued the first for the motorcycle, and MMG Insurance Company issued the second for Mr. Clarke's two automobiles--not his motorcycle. Appellants had underinsured motorist (" UIM" ) coverage for the motorcycle through the American Modern Select Insurance policy. Mr. Clarke received payments of $25,000 from American Modern Select Insurance Company for his motorcycle policy and $100,000 from the other driver's insurance company. Those payments, however, proved insufficient to cover Mr. Clarke's financial losses from the accident.

Appellants then sought coverage under their insurance policy issued by MMG Insurance Co. -- specifically under the UIM coverage clause, which provided coverage in the amount of $300,000 per accident. MMG Insurance, however, denied the UIM claim, based on the " Household Exclusion" clause. MMG Insurance asserted that the Household Exclusion clause precluded coverage because the motorcycle involved in the accident was not a covered vehicle under the MMG Insurance policy, which only covered two automobiles owned by Appellants.

On October 24, 2012, Appellants filed their initial complaint and, on December 27, 2012, filed an amended complaint. Appellants' amended complaint named MMG Insurance Company and F. Frederick Breuninger & Son Insurance, Inc. (" Breuninger Insurance" ) as defendants. The

Page 274

amended complaint sought declaratory relief against MMG Insurance (count I) and asserted claims of breach of contract (count II), negligence (count III), and breach of warranty (count IV) against both MMG Insurance and Breuninger Insurance.

On March 5, 2013, Appellants filed a motion for partial summary judgment on their claim for declaratory relief against MMG Insurance. MMG Insurance opposed the motion and, on April 3, 2013, filed a cross-motion for partial summary judgment. On April 16, 2013, the trial court denied both parties' motions. On April 25, 2013, Appellants filed a motion for reconsideration. On May 16, 2013, MMG Insurance opposed Appellant's motion for reconsideration. On August 1, 2013, upon a second review,[2] the trial court denied Appellants' motion for reconsideration (and thus also their partial summary judgment motion) and granted Appellee MMG Insurance's cross-motion for partial summary judgment.

The trial court denied Appellants' motion on the grounds that " the policy language of the Household Exclusion clause clearly and unambiguously excludes the coverage sought by [Appellants], and because the Order is consistent with Pennsylvania public policy regarding Household Exclusion clauses." Trial Court Opinion, 12/30/13, at 4.

On September 12, 2013, Appellants filed a praecipe to settle, discontinue, and end all remaining claims against MMG Insurance and Breuninger Insurance.[3] On the same day, Appellants filed a timely notice of appeal. Both Appellants and the trial court complied with Pennsylvania Rule of Appellate Procedure 1925.[4]

Appellants raise the following issues for our consideration:

1. Where the language of the policy agreement between Appellee MMG Insurance Company and Appellants clearly and unambiguously excludes underinsured motorist coverage only where the injury is sustained while occupying a vehicle that has no underinsured motorist coverage, did the [t]rial [c]ourt err as a matter of law when it concluded MMG Insurance Company did not owe the Appellants underinsured ...

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