In Moritz v. Horace Mann Property & Casualty Ins. Co., C.P. Lackawanna County, Number 13 CV 544 (11/10/2014), the Court, in a case of first impression, detailed how a UM/UIM carrier will be identified to a the Jury when the carrier is the only Defendant and what specifically would be told to the Jury regarding the UM/UIM claim.
In this case, Plaintiff, Cynthia Moritz, was involved in a motor vehicle accident which had settled with the third party tortfeasor. Upon settling the matter she then filed a UIM claim with her husband against Horace Mann Property & Casualty Insurance Company, who had issued a policy of insurance which provided UM/UIM coverage. Liability was not in dispute in this case and the issue was what information the Jury would be given regarding Plaintiffs’ UIM claim.
The Court, after consideration, held that the Jury in this case would be instructed to the following:
(1) Plaintiffs have brought this action against their own insurance company under coverage known as underinsured motorist coverage, which serves to provide compensation to a Plaintiff for damages that would have been recoverable if the under insured motorist had maintained an insurance policy which adequately covered the Plaintiff’s damages from an accident;
(2) To recover against the Defendant, the Plaintiffs must be prove that the other driver was negligent, that the negligence caused harm to Plaintiffs, and that the other driver did not have adequate liability insurance;
(3) The Defendant has stipulated that the Plaintiffs’ insurance policy provides under insured motorist coverage and that the policy was in effect at the time of the accident, such that the Jurors need not concern themselves with the specifics of the policy;
(4) The Defendant has also agreed that the other driver was negligent and caused the accident, such that the Jury need only determine whether the Plaintiffs suffered harm as a result of the accident and, if so, what amount of money damages will fairly and adequately compensate the Plaintiffs;
(5) The fact that the Plaintiffs are suing the Defendant for under insured motorist benefits suggests that the other driver had some insurance which was recovered by Plaintiffs;
(6) The Plaintiffs will not receive compensation twice for the same damages since any Jury award of damages in this case will be reduced by any amount that the Plaintiffs have already received from the other driver and her insurer; and
(7) The Jury should determine an amount of money damages that will fairly and adequately compensate the Plaintiffs for all the physical and financial injuries they have sustained as a result of the accident, without consideration of any amount that the Plaintiffs may have received from the other driver or her insurer, since any such amount will be deducted by the Court from the total sum that the Jury may award.
In addition, the Court ruled on Cross Motions in Limine wherein Plaintiffs intended to introduce testimony of first party benefits being paid to Plaintiff as a result of the accident which included benefits for an injury that was being causally related in the UIM claim. The Court agreed with Horace Mann’s position and reliance on Pantelis v. Erie Insurance Exchange, 890 A.2d 1063 (Pa. Super. 2006) and granted Horace Mann’s Motion in Limine precluding any testimony regarding any evidence that Defendant paid first party benefits to the Plaintiffs.
Please contact David R. Friedman with any questions