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Elizaire v. The Travelers Companies

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

December 14, 2017

FRANCKNEL ELIZAIRE, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
THE TRAVELERS COMPANIES d/b/a TRAVELERS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          TUCKER, J.

         Before the Court are the following:

1. Plaintiffs' Complaint, attached as Exhibit A to Defendants' Notice of Removal to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Doc. 1);[1]
2. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint (“Motion to Dismiss”) (Doc. 4);
3. Defendant's Brief in Support of its Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint (Doc. 5);
4. Plaintiffs' Response to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint and accompanying Memorandum of Law in Support of Plaintiffs' Response to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint (Doc. 6); and
5. Defendant's Reply Memorandum of Law in Support of its Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint (Doc. 11).

         Upon consideration of the Parties' submissions, and for the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED and Plaintiffs' Complaint is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On April 28, 2015, Plaintiff Naomie Elizaire (“Mrs. Elizaire”) was injured in a car accident. Compl. ¶ 11, Doc. 1. Mrs. Elizaire's injuries and losses from the accident exceeded the $15, 000 bodily injury liability limit payment that Mrs. Elizaire received from the insurer of the person responsible for the accident. Compl. ¶¶ 12, 13, Doc. 1. For this reason, Mrs. Elizaire and her husband Francknel Elizaire sought additional compensation from their own insurance company, Defendant The Automobile Insurance Company of Hartford, Connecticut (“Travelers”), under their car insurance policy bearing number 0M2666-993650294-203-1 (“Policy”). Compl. ¶¶ 5, 24, Doc. 1.

         Plaintiffs requested that Travelers pay $300, 000 to Plaintiffs. This $300, 000 constituted the full “stacked underinsured motorist coverage” limit under the Policy. Compl. ¶ 24, Doc. 1. Travelers refused payment and explained that Plaintiffs did not qualify for stacked underinsured motorist coverage because Plaintiffs rejected such coverage by executing a “Rejection of Underinsured Motorist Coverage” form (“Travelers Rejection Form”) at the time they purchased the Policy. Compl. ¶ 26, Doc. 1. The Travelers Rejection Form appeared on a page separate from the rest of the Policy. The Travelers Rejection Form reads:

Pennsylvania Rejection of Underinsured Motorists Coverage
For: FRANCKNEL & NAOIMIE ELIZAIRE State/Zip: PA 19021
Underinsured motorists protection is insurance coverage you may purchase that protects only you and your family if you or they are injured by a negligent driver who does not have enough bodily injury liability insurance to cover your claims. This coverage is optional. However, we are required to include it in your policy unless you take steps to reject it.
If you do not want this coverage, the insured named first on the application or the declarations page must sign and date the rejection of underinsured motorists protection below. If you want to keep this coverage, do not sign this waiver and go to the next page.
Rejection of Underinsured Motorists Protection
By signing this waiver I am rejecting underinsured motorists coverage under this policy, for myself and all relatives residing in my household. Underinsured coverage protects me and relatives living in my househould for losses and damages suffered if injury is caused by the negligence of a driver who does not have enough insurance to pay for all losses and damages. I knowingly and voluntarily reject this coverage.
Signature of First Named Insured Date

         Def.'s Br. in Supp. of its Mot. to Dismiss Ex. 2, Doc. 5. Indeed, Plaintiffs admit that on February 23, 2015, Francknel Elizaire signed and dated the Travelers Rejection Form. Pls.' Resp. to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss ¶ 8, Doc. 6.[2] Despite demand, Travelers, citing the signed and dated Travelers Rejection Form, ultimately refused to pay Plaintiffs. Compl. ¶ 26, Doc. 1.

         Plaintiffs accordingly filed suit in the Court of Common Pleas for Philadelphia County seeking a judgment declaring Plaintiffs entitled to stacked underinsured motorist coverage equaling $300, 000. See generally Compl., Doc. 1. In apparent recognition that the Plaintiffs' execution of the Travelers Rejection Form would normally bar Plaintiffs' requested relief, Plaintiffs allege that the language of the Travelers Rejection Form violates Pennsylvania law and is, therefore, invalid and unenforceable. Compl. ¶ 22, Doc. 1. Plaintiffs allege that the Travelers Rejection Form is invalid and unenforceable because it fails to comply specifically with the statutorily prescribed language for such rejection forms under 75 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 1731(c) (West 2017).[3]

         Later, Travelers removed the action to this Court in a timely manner on the basis of diversity. Travelers then filed the present Motion to Dismiss. Travelers ultimately contends that the Travelers Rejection Form is valid and enforceable against Plaintiffs, that Plaintiffs wholly rejected underinsured motorist protection under the Policy, and, therefore, ...


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